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Tour Diary: Hellpets – November 2002: California


November 5, 2002
Venue: The Tonic Lounge
City: Portland, OR

The front room has fireplaces and the back room has rock music.  It’s probably raining outside, so what else would you be doing?  Reportedly, the Tonic was once a strip club, though is has more of a Steak House kind of atmosphere.  Maybe that’s the same thing…  Anyway, the booking/sound guy, Gene Hall (who used to play with Portland indie-rock giants The Pinehurst Kids), brought this venue back from the brink of bankruptcy following a slow post 9/11 winter last year.  We soggy Portlanders are lucky that he did, in my opinion.  On the other hand, longtime Hellpet photographer Kirk did question why Mirror Pond Pale Ale requires two drink tickets.


As usual, our backlit name.
As usual, our backlit name. 

Starting a tour in your hometown is a good way to work the kinks out of your show while being secure in the knowledge that later on you’ll be sleeping in an actual bed.  The barrage of Hellpet flavored power-pop began at 10pm.  In honor of election night, we held a trivia contest on the local candidates and issues.  Prizes included whatever random items the Countess had been otherwise unable to sell, pawn off or give away after a recent house cleaning.  No one correctly answered how many times that day the Countess (suffering from an unknown illness) had vomited.  Gene seemed to like our stuff and invited us back to play again.  Tonic Lounge, look out!

Following us was the verbosely monikered, Deep Down Among The Dagger Dancers.  I had to write their band name down on a napkin in order to properly hype them during our set.  They were a good hard rockin’ quasi-punk style trio.  Their cover of The Cure’s “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” was a nice touch.  Their drummer works at the same Portland recording studio where Shed, Inc. recently recorded their album “Happy God”.  Nice guys.



November 8, 2002
Drive Day


Our bitchin' wheels.
Our bitchin’ wheels. 

We decided to rent a van for the tour.  This decision immediately precluded any possibility of financially breaking even for the trip, but made traveling much cozier and worry-free.  In contrast to our last Chevy Astro experience, this one had working air and heat, a working stereo, a working starter motor, a rearview mirror that was firmly attached to the windshield, seats that didn’t need to be held up by cinderblocks and rear doors that actually opened.  To us, this was luxury.


The ocean doesn't want me.
The ocean doesn’t want me. 

I awoke the morning we were scheduled to depart with sharp pain in my neck and left shoulder, possibly a pulled muscle or a pinched nerve.  In any event, I could scarcely turn myself over in bed.  The prospect of carrying rock gear seemed way beyond reach.  It was a good thing that I hadn’t managed to secure that show in Eureka opening for Jimi Hendrix’s nephew (going under the bizarre name “Guitar Shorty”).  There was no way I was going to be able to play.  A few prescription pain pills and a couple of muscle relaxers later, I headed over to the Countess’ house to begin the traditional carrying of amplifiers up her basement stairs.

Observed along the highway: 1) a portable sign in Grants Pass, OR to inform passers-by that: “Pilots for Christ thanks you for your donations”, 2) truck mud flaps with the silver likeness of a man emblazoned upon them instead of that ever-present mud flap girl.


Ross and the Countess in Arcata: Eat my fury.
Ross and the Countess in Arcata: Eat my fury. 

The California border checkpoint (yes, there is one) made it feel like we were entering a foreign country.  They even asked where we were going and how long we’d be there.  Apparently our organic apples and bananas weren’t the sort of produce that they were interested in and we didn’t otherwise match whatever profile they were looking for, so we were allowed to enter.  We then had to follow a “pilot car” (new term for me) past a rockslide that took up half of US Highway 199.  I assume that the rockslide was caused by improper produce of some sort.


With the lovely Julie in the dome.
With the lovely Julie in the dome. 

Although we had no show scheduled, our first stop in Arcata was at a bar that had piqued my curiosity during the booking phase of this tour.  Perhaps we could talk our way onto the bill, I surmised.  Chris, the promoter for the evening’s festivities, wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of us opening for the night’s main act “Cosmic Wobble”, a (no doubt descriptively named) stoner hippie jam band that intended to play a three and a half hour set that night.  The hippie jam idiom is flourishing, it would seem, in northern California college towns.  We decided not to press the issue and perhaps come back on our return trip after C. Baker had allowed his hair to properly dread up.

Behold, A wonder of modern architecture.The pain in my left shoulder still hadn’t died down, but fortunately we were staying that first night with our friend Julie who, in addition to being a registered nurse, is also a licensed massage therapist.  After two fairly intense rubbings and a visit to the hot tub, I was almost functional.  Thanks, Jules!

Julie and Michael live in the hills outside of Arcata, CA.  Basically, you turn off the major highway, turn off the state highway, turn off the narrow winding mountain road, turn off the dirt road, continue another hundred yards or so through the mud and you’re there.  I recommend this trip in the pitch-blackness of the country night.  The house was quite a wonderland of rope lights and bizarre architecture.  It’s on five staggered levels and has a comfy cabin feel with a large, thoroughly modern kitchen and almost no internal doors.  The shower has full-length exterior glass on 2 sides overlooking the forest and back deck.  It’s quite a view no matter which side of the glass you’re on.  Following the deck walkway (vaguely reminiscent of the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi) past the hot tub, you reach a geodesic dome, which is fully decked out with black lights, psychedelic lanterns, a disco ball, multi-grain hardwood floors, hula-hoops, futons, pillows and assorted drums.  I would have been content to just stay there for the next 10 days.



This is what you see when taking a shower at Michael and Julie's house.
November 9, 2002
Venue: The Port Lite
City: Oakland, CA

Today began with a fabulous thunderstorm that kept C. Baker trapped in the geodesic dome until 9:30.  During breakfast at Crosswinds in downtown Arcata, The Countess (eating her first ever meal of vegan biscuits and gravy) observed that the two major industries of Arcata seem to be 1) logging and 2) protesting against logging.  This contrasts the rest of the redwood forest where the principal industry appears to be the carving of wooden bears out of stumps.  After stopping at a few Redwoods-related gift shops along the Avenue of the Giants, I began to suspect that there are more wooden bears in the forest than real bears.  Perhaps the greatest thing about Arcata is that they don’t allow any chain businesses to open in town.  Everything is very quaint and genuine, as opposed to neighboring Eureka, which looks pretty much like the rest of the country in terms of chain stores with big signs.  I was recently told that Eureka did manage to give Wal-Mart the boot several years back.  Go Eureka!  (Thanks for the tip, Erika.)

We left Arcata around 1pm, saw a bunch of enormous trees, walked inside some trees, and did some other touristy, tree-related activities.  Noticing that the “Legend of Bigfoot” tourist stop was for sale, I started worrying that the Countess might decide to quit the rock ‘n’ roll business and instead realize her lifelong dream of operating a roadside curiosity.  After an eternity on a curvy 2-lane highway with a ravine on one side and a rock face on the other while enduring 40 mph winds and blinding rain, we finally arrived in Oakland.  It’s amazing how many cars can simultaneously park on a twelve-lane highway.


The Countess' next entrepreneurial venture.
The Countess’ next entrepreneurial venture. 

Upon our arrival at the Port Lite, the bartenders seemed completely disinterested in us.  They were wholly transfixed by a television show called “Facelifts of the Stars”.  Welcome to California!  Attempts to get any information out of them (such as “When does the sound guy usually arrive?” and “Is there anywhere to go eat nearby?”) would generally cause them to confer briefly in Korean before slowly being sucked back into the television.  They weren’t too helpful.  We managed to find the New World Vegetarian International Restaurant off Broadway in downtown Oakland.  Their menu is based on the teachings of a Vietnamese religious cult figure.  The wait staff was suspiciously hesitant to discuss the religious connections of the establishment, but we did pick up some literature that was lying around.  Too bad most of it was written in Vietnamese.

The unbridled rock onslaught that is Manacle.We were slated to play with three other bands that night.  Luckily, two of them were no-shows.  The band that did arrive, Manacle, was a heavy grind-core band that put on a fun show, but at a deafening volume.  Manacle has been playing together for five years, but this was only their second public performance.  We played second, not sure what to expect from the hardcore element in attendance.  For unknown reasons, they loved us!  I could hardly believe it, considering that after Manacle we must have sounded like Neil Sedaka’s grandmother.  All those back bends, jumps, and other extravagant stage maneuvers must have paid off!  Overall, the crowd was sparse (even despite the Countess’ yelling about our show out the van window to those people waiting in line for the Oakland Opera), but appreciative.

The bar staff closed up in a hurry after we stopped playing.  I carried some gear to the curb, spent a couple of minutes arranging it in the van, walked back up to the bar for a last look, and the place was already chained up and the lights were out.  They probably had to rush home for an all-night “Facelifts of the Stars” marathon.


With Megan, Scott and Jeff in Alameda.
With Megan, Scott and Jeff in Alameda. 

The Countess went off to her friend Sara’s apartment for the night, while C. Baker and I followed our friend Natasja to a Guy Fawkes Day party in southeast Oakland hosted by a mechanical engineer named Nick.  His house reminded me a lot of the geodesic dome from the night before.  There were black lights, disco balls, lasers and a great deal of conversation centered around Burning Man.  It’s only the second day of the tour and I’ve already met two separate groups of hardcore Burners.  Nick is also something of a robotics enthusiast having built a huge flailing tarantula spider over his garage for Halloween and having been involved on some level with Comedy Central’s Battlebots show.  Around 2:30am as the party was about to relocate to a nearby rave, C. Baker and I decided to instead head over to my friend Jeff’s house in Alameda and pull up some floor space for the night.



View from the dashboard (this photo is unaltered, by the way).
November 10, 2002
Venue: Absinthe
City: Santa Barbara, CA

This morning we had breakfast at Jim’s Restaurant in Alameda with Jeff, Meg and little Scott Reese.  Today’s drive was a pleasure after the storminess of northern California.  Several hours of sunny vineyards, agriculture, and migrant farm workers later, we arrived in the seaside haven of white bread elitism known as Santa Barbara.  First stop: the Reagan Ranch.  Well, possibly not, and if so, certainly not on purpose.  Whatever random freeway exit we took did seem to take us past a lot of highly fortified, gated estates on an overly scenic winding road where we would pass by the occasional Ferrari or Mammoth SUV in a showdown over who gets the worse gas mileage.

The Pacific Ocean was less tempestuous down in So Cal.  Still, the air had that unmistakable nippiness of fall.  I’m guessing the water did too since all the surfers were wearing full wet suits.

Situated in downtown Santa Barbara, the Absinthe is a good size place with some interesting quasi-retro furnishings.  There were separate rooms for lounging and music, plus an enormous patio area, which most California bars seem to be using these days to circumvent the anti-smoking laws.  It’s great to be able to play a show at a club and not come home smelling like an ashtray (maybe I should have moved to California).  The place smelled like a thrift store, however (that’s probably where they got all the antique furniture).  An official “Ross and the Hellpets” sticker was affixed to the office door, so I took that as a good sign.  However, when I announced to the bartender that we were the night’s band, she gave me a very confused look.  Seems that the only people who knew we were coming was the owner and the sound guy.  Another promoter had double booked the club with a gay disco dance night.  Long story short, we didn’t get listed in the local papers and wound up playing an early set as the opening act for gay disco night.


C. Baker and the Countess share a prescription drug ad moment in Santa Barbara.
C. Baker and the Countess share a prescription drug ad moment in Santa Barbara. 

The sound guy, Gary, was friendly enough.  The owner, Trevor, was quite generous and apologetic about the situation.  Seems that Sundays have been a really bad night for the Absinthe and hosting a gay night at the club was essentially a last resort to draw in a niche crowd.  I got the impression that the Absinthe staff and management weren’t genuinely thrilled about hosting the Santa Barbara GLBT community, but that might have been my imagination.

The Countess rocking hard at the Absinthe.The crowd that eventually showed up was pretty groovy, I thought.  Hardly any of them were there at 9pm when we played, but we had roughly 20 people in the bar (primarily in the other room).  Luckily, our friends Claire and Lee were there to take up the slack with their hardcore Hellpet devotion and enthusiasm.  By the end of our set, we had attracted the attention of the random bar dwellers and even managed to sell a couple CDs.

About two seconds after we finished, dance tunes began blaring from the turntables of “DJ Gavin” at about twice the volume of the band.  It was the first time the Countess had ever needed earplugs just to load out equipment.



November 11, 2002
Venue: Scolari’s Office
City: San Diego, CA


Overlooking the rooftops of Santa Barbara.
Overlooking the rooftops of Santa Barbara. 

We had breakfast with our friends Claire, Lee, Jonathan and Anne at a place called Cajun Kitchen in Santa Barbara.  Being a native Louisianian, I was tempted to test out the authenticity of the place, but in the end I just ordered some pancakes.  They had genuine McIlhenny Tabasco sauce on the table, and if you pour that stuff on anything, it doesn’t really matter what the food originally tasted like.

The wonders of nature were on display at the santa Barbara pier.We checked out the ultra-touristy Santa Barbara pier where we watched in amazement and mild queasiness as a brown pelican spent about a minute swallowing whole a live fish.  Some particularly enterprising panhandlers had set up targets on the beach for people to throw their loose change into from the pier.  The courthouse (like most buildings around here, mission-style and reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition) offers a nice view of the many, many terra cotta colored rooftops of Santa Barbara.

Once in San Diego, we made our first stop at the Countess’ parents place in Point Loma where we would be spending the night.  Next we ate dinner at a charming Mexican place with a friend of the Countess’ whose career included a stint as a South American mercenary for hire.  This is the guy we need as our tour manager!


Kicking out the jams in San Diego.
Kicking out the jams in San Diego. 

Our arrival at Scolari’s Office was eerily reminiscent of the previous night.  The bartender was basically clueless about who we were and what we were doing there.  There was a P.A. system piled up in the corner of the room, which, I’m told, hadn’t been there the day before.  Conventional wisdom would dictate that it was brought in for us, but the bartender stated that we “can’t touch it” without permission from the owner of the P.A.  When asked about the likely arrival time of said owner, the bartender gave me a primitive gesture indicating ignorance.  This was the low point in my opinion of California bartenders.  Our salvation arrived in the form of none other than Sandy Scolari, who besides telling us to do whatever we wanted with the P.A., proceeded to chew out the bartender for hassling us.  I was slightly embarrassed for the guy.


The Countess and her court in San Diego.

We put on our usual set of wacky rock/pop numbers and the crowd responded warmly.  It was a small room, so even though we had only 20 or so people in attendance, it felt like plenty.  After our set, we were engaged in enthusiastic drunken conversation about music by several of what I presume were Scolari’s regulars.  We also hung out with a local freelance photographer who lives on a sailing boat.  Instead of the $900 he used to pay for rent in San Diego, he now pays $175 to tie his boat to a mooring post in the middle of San Diego harbor.  The price is right, but besides having no electricity or plumbing, he has to row out there in a dinghy.  I don’t imagine that friends drop by very often.

Bringing the rock to Scolari's.
Bringing the rock to Scolari’s. 



November 12, 2002
Venue: Mr. t’s Bowl
City: Los Angeles, CA

C. Baker has never eaten so much breakfast in his life as he has on this tour!  The rock ‘n’ roll brunch tradition extended into its fourth consecutive day as we headed to the famous Big Kitchen in San Diego with our friend, the poet and spoken word artist Kimberly Dark (whose new CD I just got).  The Big Kitchen is a social and cultural institution that boasts such former employees as Whoopie Goldberg (who shares a picture frame with Timothy Dalton for some reason).  A trip to the Big Kitchen is such a glorious event that even their bumbling of our order, them being out of several key ingredients, and the large, recently deceased cockroach under our table couldn’t put a damper on things.

Kimberly has recently become a minor celebrity in Hawaii, where she recently bought a house/writing retreat in Lava Flood Plane 2 on the big island.  The fact that no houses remain on Lava Flood Plain 1 doesn’t appear to concern her. 

The Hellpets are menaced by a Mastadon skeleton.News flash: The L.A. freeway traffic is a nightmare.  At least Los Angeles uses the Adopt-a-Highway program to keep things from getting too filthy.  Our Adopt-a-Highway sponsor today: “Bad Boys Bail Bonds”.

The LaBrea tar pits and the accompanying Page museum were very interesting.  It’s pretty strange watching an animatronic saber-toothed tiger hanging off the neck of an animatronic giant sloth.  The wall of wolf skulls was nice.  I wondered what it must be like to spend years getting your Ph.D. in paleontology only to wind up working behind a glass wall with tourists looking over your shoulder all day.


Doing my best Michael Moore impression.
Doing my best Michael Moore impression. 

I liked Mr. t’s Bowl.  It’s an old bowling alley where the lanes all gradually broke and were never repaired, so they did the logical thing and built a big stage.  In the backstage area, you have to be careful not to trip over the old gutters.  The sound guy, Arlo, is so well respected in the local indie rock community that a SubPop band took their name from him.

Mr. t’s is one of the few non-Hispanic businesses on this section of Figueroa Street.  It was nice to walk by and hear Mexican music being blasted out into the street.  We walked into the Hello Kitty store, where the owner instantly recognized us as people who had come from Mr. t’s Bowl (because we’re white).  Back at Mr. t’s, we ate some bowling alley food with Ryan of the band Electric Girls.  Ryan had recently moved to Los Angeles from Ohio, and was the first of the five acts to play.  I pity the fool who don't dig the Electric Girls.The second band, The Empire was also extremely rockin’.  I was particularly amused by their front man who looked like a cross between Bill Paxton and Nick Cave starring in a John Hughes movie from the 80′s.  Thirdly, we heard the textural drone-rocking sounds of NiteLite, who were appearing at Mr. t’s no less than three times that month.  They were followed by the straightforward rock of San Diego’s Congress of the Cow.  I was talking to a member of the Congress before their set and he seemed like a nice enough guy.  However, Ryan later told me that the Cows were “mocking” us during our set.  Whether the alleged mock was because we didn’t sound exactly like everyone else or because I had the nerve to play an acoustic guitar, I never found out.  Can’t bands remember that they’re supposed to get famous first and only then start acting like jackasses?  Some people’s kids!  We played last, and despite broken strings, electric shocks and guitar cords stretched to their limits (or perhaps because of those things), pulled off a very entertaining show.


The Countess and her old friend from New Orleans.
The Countess and her old friend from New Orleans. 

The emcee of the evening was a friendly, enthusiastic guy known as Mike TV.  At the end of the evening, Mike introduced us to a fellow named Shmedley, who volunteered to put us up for the night.  Shmed is bassist for the aforementioned band Arlo.  They had just returned from five weeks on the road, so he knows what it’s like to need free lodging.  Shmed was a very accommodating host and turned out to be a virtuoso pianist and guitarist.  His body also seemed to be producing some sort of natural amphetamines that caused him to be in constant hummingbird mode, with our entertainment as his top priority.  Before heading to his house in Pasadena, we told him that we would probably want to get right to sleep.  He indicated that this would be no problem.  However, shortly after we arrived (say 2:30 in the morning or so), people started showing up at the house with 12 packs.  Thankfully, they mostly confined themselves to a bedroom and we were able to slumber, if somewhat fitfully.  In another interesting development, there was a parking ticket on the van in the morning, which sat in the exact spot where Shmedley had told us to park, but the cop wrote down the wrong license plate number.  It turns out that Pasadena bans onstreet parking from 2 am to 6 am everyday, and everybody is expected to know that without the benefit of signs.  Not very hospitable to strangers like us.



A fake cave at Knott's Berry Farm.
November 13, 2002
Day Off

If you think the L.A. traffic is bad, you should try the smog!  To me, it smelled a lot like formaldehyde-soaked gym socks.  It also makes the sky a light brown color instead of the more widely preferred blue.  Sitting in L.A. freeway traffic really accentuates one’s smog experience, I found.

For our day off, we decided to ride some coasters at Knott’s Berry Farm (originally, we planned on Disneyland, but Knott’s was way cheaper).  The roller coaster plan was nearly derailed, however, when a friend let us in on rumors of racism and anti-Semitism within the Knott’s company.  This friend referred us to Kimberly in San Diego, who had apparently done some investigative work on this matter.  Kimberly discussed Knott’s with her Jewish friends and the consensus was that they weren’t supposed to go there, but nobody knew exactly why.  It was possibly some incident from the 50′s or 60′s.  When Kim actually visited the theme park, the staff appeared to be reasonably diverse.  She even went to an info booth to inquire about kosher food options and was given a guide denoting the various kosher and vegetarian dining options around the park.  We concluded that even if they are secretly funding fascist right-wing groups (which we have absolutely no evidence of whatsoever in the slightest) then it’s not overt enough to keep us from going on thrill rides.  Whee!


The Hellpets are menaced by a roller coaster.
The Hellpets are menaced by a roller coaster. 

It was all fun and games until the operator of the log ride accused the Countess and I of “throwing things” at the camera taking the souvenir action shots.  After that outrage, it was all I could do to keep myself from setting fire to the place.

We drove up to Ventura to spend the night.  I’m afraid that I may have to boycott Motel 6 from now on.  The rooms were far crappier than the building exterior and the room price would lead someone to believe.  For instance, the shower was built for a toddler and there were no amenities in the room aside from one miniature soap.  Furthermore, the icemaker refused to perform the task for which it was named.  There might have been a problem with the soft drink machine too, judging by the 60 year old guy who was standing in front of it, plopping in coins and pushing buttons while continuously mumbling profanities under his breath.  I’ll give Motel 6 the benefit of the doubt in this case and assume the guy was simply an escaped mental patient.



November 14, 2002
Venue: 2 Dogs Coffee
City: San Luis Obispo, CA


Sam Keener (r), Nat (l) and the two Erins.
Sam Keener (r), Nat (l) and the two Erins. 

Today we awoke to the repeated sounds of a nearby pile driver.  Each thud was followed a half second later by a tremor than shook the beds on the third floor of the Motel 6.  Was this their subtle way of getting people to check out of the dump?  We lunched in Santa Barbara, visited ClaireMarie one more time and proceeded northward.

San Luis Obispo is pretty.  And even better than that, 2 Dogs Coffee gave us free internet time!  After a few days on the road, it’s generally necessary to clear out all the pornographic spam from the Hotmail account.  I wonder if MSN is adding us to these mailing lists in hopes we’ll upgrade to a bigger mailbox.  Thursday is farmer’s market night in SLO-Town and I think the entire population was downtown between 7:00 and 9:00.  From the looks of things, this weekly fair constitutes most of the SLO nightlife.  My favorite part was a stream of consciousness puppet show rendition of “Little Red Riding Hood”.  At least I think that’s what it was.

The post-punk acoustic stylings of Virgil Shaw.We had dinner courtesy of KCPR at zPie, which is the only restaurant I’ve ever been to that specializes in pot pies.  Joining us was the charming Bay Area troubadour Virgil Shaw, with whom we’d be playing later.  Virgil is a very likeable guy who has a band in San Francisco, but tends to tour as a solo act for financial reasons.  Our show would have taken place at zPie had they not been planning on another show that night (which had subsequently been cancelled).  I saw a flyer for the band Circulatory System (featuring my old friends Will and John) coming to zPie on November 25.  It’s a small rock ‘n’ roll world.

Tonight’s show was set up by KCPR disc jockey, Patrick Gispert.  A little 6 Degrees-style trivia: Patrick’s ex-girlfriend’s godmother is the aunt of Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes.  The first two acts, Sam Keener and Birds of America (which tonight consisted on one guy named Nat), drove down from Berkeley and played really pretty, Nick Drake-esque acoustic songs.  Virgil Shaw played third, belting out some quirky and inspired acoustic weirdness, which I greatly enjoyed.  We got his CD afterward to listen to in the van.  Next we heard the mournful honky-tonk stylings of Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys.  They were a great sounding band, but they never strayed very far from their chosen genre.  You generally knew what was coming next in the songs, but there can be something comforting about that.

Part of a spy plane?  You be the judge.For the second night in a row, we were the last of five acts, which once again meant that 75% of the people had already gone home by the time we hit the stage.  Undaunted, we plowed into our set, establishing some good rock momentum toward the end.  At one point, I asked the audience what there was to do and see in San Luis Obispo.  Apparently the only local tourist destination is “gumball alley”, a corridor between two buildings where decades worth of people have deposited their used chewing gum (The Countess, who encountered this alley on her early morning walk the next day, summed it up as “vile”).  Having these sorts of entertainment options must really leave a lot of time for studying.  Anyway, we got great feedback from the night owls who were still around by the time my mock stage dive signaled the end of the show. 

One of those people was Carver, another KCPR DJ who has been a tireless indie rock promoter in SLO for several years.  Some rather strict noise ordinance enforcement by the local authorities, has made it difficult for him to keep rental spaces though.  San Luis Obispo is rather lacking in actual rock venues, it seems.  Carver and his friend Camille piled into the van and we headed off to the stately Bullard House (erected 1903).  We love spending the night at historic monuments, even if they have become run-down rental properties for college students.  



November 15, 2002
Venue: Capitol Garage
City: Sacramento, CA


Capitol Garage [not pictured: Capitol].
Capitol Garage [not pictured: Capitol]. 

We had the usual brunch, dropped off some “Ross Beach: You Make It Look So Easy” promotional postcards at a record store, scouted for the nearest Washington Mutual Bank, stopped at Von’s (our new favorite So Cal grocery corporation) for ice, then hit the road.  There were a few interesting sights along the way.  For instance, in Kettleman City I saw the most cows that I’ve ever seen in one spot.  For nearly a quarter mile, there was so much cow in the field that you couldn’t even see the grass.  Later, sitting on a flatbed trailer, I saw a wing section which I’m convinced came off of an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane (you know, the one’s that Lockheed was making in the 60′s).


Bringing the rock to Capitol Garage.

Our first stop in Sacramento was at the home of Mr. Skip Allums, the former KLSU disc jockey and current bandleader of Estereo.  We were then introduced to his girlfriend, Missy, and their cat, Bennie, before being whisked off to KSSU for a live interview and acoustic performance.  Our KSSU radio host, Scott, later sat in on drums with Skip for his song “I Never Wanted To Be a Piano Bench So Bad”, one of his many tributes to Tori Amos.


Mr. Skip Allums performing as Estereo.
Mr. Skip Allums performing as Estereo. 

In keeping with our reputation for promptness and reliability, we arrived at Capitol Garage at the preordained load-in time of 7:00, though we weren’t actually allowed to load in until 90 minutes later.  The promoter/sound guy/general logistics coordinator, Charles Twilling, was very friendly in spite of what appeared to be a highly stressful stage setup process.  One of the bands had decided to bring in risers to increase the height of the stage, only to realize, an hour later, that the band wasn’t going to fit.  This was easily our most well attended show of the tour, which can be entirely attributed to the bands Low Flying Owls (who were playing their farewell show tonight) and Call Me Ishmael (who were having a CD release party).  The place was packed and everybody sounded great.  Thank you, Charles, for your expert handling of the soundboard.

Skip with fans at the Garage.After the show, I crammed into a 60′s model Plymouth with Skip and four other people for a late night breakfast at Lyon’s.  I thought that we were being a bit obnoxious, what with us periodically bursting into songs from the Tenacious D album and all, but the graveyard shift waitress was completely unfazed by us.  She’s probably seen much worse.



November 16, 2002
Venue: Moxie’s
City: Chico, CA


View from outside the front window at Moxies (blurry version).
View from outside the front window at Moxies (blurry version). 

The much-hyped Jack’s restaurant was closed, so we dined at Bernardo’s.  After we had waited in the ordering line for 10 minutes and were almost up to the counter, they took down the breakfast menu and refused to let us order anything from it.  Also, since they were “changing over” the kitchen for lunch, most of those items would take 30 minutes to prepare!  When the food finally did arrive, they had put tomatoes in Missy’s calzone despite specific instructions to the contrary.  I voted against leaving a tip, but I was overruled.

New music genre observed at downtown Sacto record store:  Budget Rock.

Delicious Chico vittles.The drive to Chico is basically 90 minutes of desolate wasteland.  The town itself is kind of quaint though, in an overrun-with-beer-swilling-college-kids kind of way.  Moxie’s had a laid-back coffee shop feel to it.  We were a bit dismayed to find out that they were closing at 10:00 that night, which meant that not only would Skip have to start playing at 8:00, but his band mate Bethany (who was performing in a stage production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show until 10:00) wouldn’t be there in time for their Boytiger project to close out the night.  Several people showed up to see us around 9:45, but of course we had just finished by then.  The folks who happened to be there early enough seemed to like us.  Skip had to climb onto a perilously high ledge to connect the P.A. speakers.  I managed to convert two broken Moxie’s mic stands into one working mic stand.  We played the song “Birthday Party”, which Skip requested, even though we hadn’t rehearsed it.  Everyone lived happily every after.


Bethany Boytiger, The Skipper and Tizzy in Chico.
Bethany Boytiger, The Skipper and Tizzy in Chico.

After load-out, we retired to Bethany’s microscopic house with Skip and our new friend Tizzy, to hear an impromptu performance of Boytiger.  Bethany has such a powerful voice that she can sing without a microphone while pounding on a drumkit and still have her words perfectly audible.  I’m looking forward to the Estereo/Boytiger Northwestern Tour this spring.


C. Baker lays down a funky beat for Skip.
C. Baker lays down a funky beat for Skip.

Skip, Bethany and Tizzy headed over to the Rocky Horror cast party (it was closing night) and we Hellpets went to the Vagabond Inn on Main St. in Chico.  Thumbs up for the Vagabond!



November 17, 2002
Drive Day

Hellpet family vacation portrait.The drive home on Sunday was fairly uneventful.  We saw the “Church of the Redeemed” in Redding, CA, which begs the question, why do the redeemed need to go to church?  Mt. Shasta is pretty and also apparently the entrance to a vast subterranean kingdom inhabited by ground dwelling elves or something.  It’s all well documented.  We also saw several signs for StateofJefferson.com, which lays out the case for a secessionist movement for the extreme northern end of California and extreme southern edge of Oregon, long neglected by their respective states, to break off to form their own state: Jefferson.  Considering the manner in which territory has been acquired and divvied up over the history of this country, I’m sure they have as sound an argument as anyone else.  The National Guard isn’t on their side though, so I doubt it’ll ever happen.




Miles traveled: 2671
Dr. Peppers consumed: 15
Band’s played with: 13
Mexican meals eaten: 11
Rolls of film exposed: 9
Roller coasters ridden: 5
Couches slept on: 5
Air mattresses slept on: 3
Gourmet pot pies eaten: 3
Guitar strings broken: 3
Cymbals cracked: 1
Bass amps blown: 1
Televisions thrown, Keith Richards-style, from motel balcony: 0

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