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The Green Pajamas And Boatclub Tour Diary, Part 5

GreenPajamasDay5Touring the U.S. in the chill of December is always problematical, unless you’ve decided to play only in Florida and California and have access to dad’s Learjet to get from the land of orange juice to the Golden State. You’d think MAGNET’s Jud Cost, a grizzled veteran of the music wars, would have figured that out before he volunteered to accompany his old friends in the Green Pajamas and boatclub on a short Portland-to-Seattle jaunt and write about what went down. But with visions of Tom Wolfe and Ken Kesey shepherding the Grateful Dead in 1965 flashing in his head, the lure may have been irresistible. Formed in 1982 by Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross when they discovered a mutual love of the Beatles’ “Rain,” the Green Pajamas have been on the scene longer than any current Seattle band. Their admirable endurance can be credited both to a steady stream of fine albums created mainly by Kelly and the fact they play out only a handful of times each year. Oakland’s boatclub features both guitarists from ’80s Paisley Underground stalwarts Rain Parade, Matt Piucci and John Thoman. They also boast an excellent third stringbender, Mark Hanley, who formerly accompanied onetime Quicksilver Messenger Service vocalist Dino Valenti, as well as drummer Stephan Junca, who (like Piucci) occasionally plays with Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot. Read Cost’s recent Green Pajamas Q&A.

The Green Pajamas’ “Rattlesnake Kiss” (download):

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Monday, December 7
I awoke early on getaway day to what I thought was the sound of police sirens in the distance, a highly unlikely prospect in sleepy Manzanita, all but deserted for the winter season. It was only the bitter wind, now gusting to 50 mph, blowing through the rafters. Steve had pointed out the moonlit spot last night where they had once seen an elk in the wetlands that passes for their beach-front backyard, but even the local critters were bundled up early on this frigid morning. I went upstairs to watch TV, soon joined by John Thoman, wandering the battlements like Marley’s ghost. It suddenly occurred to me that I never once saw the guy eat or sleep during the entire trip, although he did claim he’d visited a few Dairy Queens somewhere along the way. Piucci got off the best one-liner of the tour (by borrowing a quote from a recent Bizarro comic strip) when he referred to Thoman as being a previous member of famed Aussie rock band OCD/C. The unflappable Thoman decided he would wake Junca, his copilot for the drive home, before the sun came up so they could get an early start. “The irony of this is incredible, John,” barked the groggy drummer at the guy who had been late for just about every time-check so far on the tour. “You’re going to get us killed, driving on roads like these in the dark!” To return south to the S.F. Bay Area from Manzanita, you first must drive 75 miles north, over another icy pass, all the way back to Portland, then aim due south for the final 690-mile drive home. We all made the return journey in one piece, although it took me two days to complete the open-road course. Driving solo now, since Rachel had flown home the day before and we’d reshuffled the deck, I held out until Redding about 500 miles to the south, just across the California border, before I started seeing chipmunks darting across the road that weren’t there. I decided wisely to shut it down. A couple episodes of Seinfeld, a Twix bar from the candy machine (it didn’t stick) and a good night’s sleep at the first decent motel I could find was just the ticket. Then a hearty breakfast at a nearby greasy-spoon truckstop, where the good old boys were loading up on steak, eggs, grits, gravy, pancakes and biscuits, and I felt like a new man the next morning.

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The Green Pajamas And Boatclub Tour Diary, Part 4

GreenPajamasDay4Touring the U.S. in the chill of December is always problematical, unless you’ve decided to play only in Florida and California and have access to dad’s Learjet to get from the land of orange juice to the Golden State. You’d think MAGNET’s Jud Cost, a grizzled veteran of the music wars, would have figured that out before he volunteered to accompany his old friends in the Green Pajamas and boatclub on a short Portland-to-Seattle jaunt and write about what went down. But with visions of Tom Wolfe and Ken Kesey shepherding the Grateful Dead in 1965 flashing in his head, the lure may have been irresistible. Formed in 1982 by Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross when they discovered a mutual love of the Beatles’ “Rain,” the Green Pajamas have been on the scene longer than any current Seattle band. Their admirable endurance can be credited both to a steady stream of fine albums created mainly by Kelly and the fact they play out only a handful of times each year. Oakland’s boatclub features both guitarists from ’80s Paisley Underground stalwarts Rain Parade, Matt Piucci and John Thoman. They also boast an excellent third stringbender, Mark Hanley, who formerly accompanied onetime Quicksilver Messenger Service vocalist Dino Valenti, as well as drummer Stephan Junca, who (like Piucci) occasionally plays with Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot. Read Cost’s recent Green Pajamas Q&A.

The Green Pajamas’ “Looking For Heaven” (download):

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Sunday, December 6
Up bright and early this morning to greet the Kelly daughters, first Tess, then Jane, with what I thought were can’t-miss literary salutations (“Good morning, Tess of the D’Urbervilles”; “Good morning Jane of Lantern Hill”) and received a well deserved non-reaction from each. Which just goes to show they’ve become normal teenage girls, rather than just the precocious offspring of a brilliant singer/songwriter and an equally dazzling painter (which they have always been). I pick up Hanley at the Ross guest house and serenade Joe’s infant son Lincoln with the refrain from Shirley Ellis’ 1965 hit “The Name Game” (“Lincoln, Lincoln, bo-Pincoln/Banana-fanna, fo-Fincoln/Me my mo-Mincoln: Lincoln!”) Not much reaction from this kid, either. Maybe I’m losing my touch with the youngsters. We point the Mini Cooper back toward Portland and hope for the best on the upcoming 50-mile two-lane road out to the Pacific coast. Highway 30 to Astoria has been dusted with snow this morning, and we have to be wary of black ice on the pass that crests around 1,500 feet. I slow down, no doubt pissing off locals behind me who want to go 65 in what looks like slippery conditions. We pull over halfway down the coast at a place called Bell Buoy for the best crab cocktail I’ve ever tasted (“Fresh off the boat,” says the lady behind the counter) and finally arrive at our last port of call, Manzanita, Ore. It’s the unlikely site for tonight’s show at a local watering hole called the San Dune Pub. No one knows why there’s no “d” in San Dune. The temperature has dropped into the teens and there’s a 40-mph wind beating down on us. Sure, this would be a balmy evening if you’re from Edmonton, but to a wimpy bunch of Californians who whine when it gets below 50, it’s pretty miserable. But the sandwiches are good and the show goes down surprisingly well. And the rest room is heated to about 200 degrees. Steve and Melissa have a beach house in Manzanita, and they’ve put the word out among their many friends who have shown up by the dozens. Melissa is overjoyed to find the current edition of the Cannon Beach Citizen is running my press release of tonight’s show as a page-11 feature. When he heard of our final destination, Scott McCaughey had warned earlier, “If there was a gig in Manzanita, believe me, I’d know about it.” But the boys peddled a few of their self-produced CDs tonight and got to play some stuff I’ve never heard them do, such as Hanley singing lead on “Fresh Air,” the Dino Valenti-penned 1970 West Coast AOR radio hit by Quicksilver Messenger Service. We downed a few bottles of cabernet along with a few slabs of local Tillamook cheese to celebrate mission accomplished back at Steve and Melissa’s fab two-story beach place before hitting the sack.

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The Green Pajamas And Boatclub Tour Diary, Part 3

GreenPajamasDay3Touring the U.S. in the chill of December is always problematical, unless you’ve decided to play only in Florida and California and have access to dad’s Learjet to get from the land of orange juice to the Golden State. You’d think MAGNET’s Jud Cost, a grizzled veteran of the music wars, would have figured that out before he volunteered to accompany his old friends in the Green Pajamas and boatclub on a short Portland-to-Seattle jaunt and write about what went down. But with visions of Tom Wolfe and Ken Kesey shepherding the Grateful Dead in 1965 flashing in his head, the lure may have been irresistible. Formed in 1982 by Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross when they discovered a mutual love of the Beatles’ “Rain,” the Green Pajamas have been on the scene longer than any current Seattle band. Their admirable endurance can be credited both to a steady stream of fine albums created mainly by Kelly and the fact they play out only a handful of times each year. Oakland’s boatclub features both guitarists from ’80s Paisley Underground stalwarts Rain Parade, Matt Piucci and John Thoman. They also boast an excellent third stringbender, Mark Hanley, who formerly accompanied onetime Quicksilver Messenger Service vocalist Dino Valenti, as well as drummer Stephan Junca, who (like Piucci) occasionally plays with Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot. Read Cost’s recent Green Pajamas Q&A.

The Green Pajamas’ “Wild Pony” (download):

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Saturday December 5
Music Millennium, a wonderful two-story independent record shop and a fine example of something that’s becoming a vanishing species on the American landscape, is our next stop for a 1:00 pm instore by both bands. Playing from a second-floor stage, they turn down the volume with a pair of superb, semi-acoustic sets. The most touching moment of every boatclub performance on tour has to be when Matt asks his brother Steve to join the band on keyboards for a pair of Rain Parade chestnuts: “This Can’t Be Today” and “Blue.” It’s also good to see former Bay Area resident Tim Hinely drop by with his button-cute two-year-old daughter, Sophia, in tow. I tell Hinely (who still publishes his own mag, Dagger, as well as contributes to MAGNET and Blurt) about the time I dragged my daughter to a 1978 San Jose instore to meet the Ramones as they signed copies of Ramones Leave Home. And now it’s time for boatclub to leave the comfortable home of Steve and “Auntie Mel” and hit the bricks to Seattle, 170 miles to the north. I’m staying with the Kellys—Jeff, Susanne, Jane and Tess—out in the U District (close to the University of Washington), but the rest are booked into Joe Ross’ guest house in West Seattle. I’ve logged plenty of time in West Seattle (interviews with McCaughey, True West and Fleet Foxes) and thought I knew my way around. Hanley and I soon spot Luna Park Cafe about two blocks from Ross’ place, but due to flawed directions from air traffic control, we somehow wind up back on the West Seattle Bridge, going the wrong way. The first off-ramp, instead of sending us under the bridge back in the right direction, shoots us due north on the 99 expressway instead, and we can’t get off. As Safeco Field (home of the Mariners), Qwest Field (home of the Seahawks) and finally Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle zip by in a blur, Hanley and I start laughing so hard the tears are rolling. Elapsed time to find Ross’ guest house must be a West Seattle record of 90 minutes. I finally arrive mumbling at the Kelly’s place, normally a very sleepy neighborhood, after getting stuck in post-UW Huskies vs. California Golden Bears football traffic. Just time for two beers, a few smokes and we’re off to the gig at The Lo-Fi Performance Gallery. Having recommended the venue to Ross, Bumbershoot artistic director Chris Porter is here tonight and seems open to a possible future date by both the Pajamas and boatclub at the esteemed Seattle festival. A surprise guest is none other than Pat Thomas, erstwhile guru of S.F.’s Heyday Records, onetime home to such lauded indie rockers as Chris Cacavas, Barbara Manning, Chuck Prophet and former Rain Paraders Piucci and Steven Roback. Thomas pulled up stakes recently to get his bachelor’s degree in nearby OIympia in order to become an English teacher. In spite of a semi-obnoxious, well-oiled heckler who insists on performing tumbling routines well beyond his modest capabilities while young girls continue to bring him drinks, the show goes flawlessly tonight, wrapping up with both bands joining forces for a 20-minute version of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine staple “It’s All Too Much.” And it almost is … but not quite.

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The Green Pajamas And Boatclub Tour Diary, Part 2

greenpajamasDay2Touring the U.S. in the chill of December is always problematic, unless you’ve decided to play only in Florida and California and have access to dad’s Learjet to get from the land of orange juice to the Golden State. You’d think MAGNET’s Jud Cost, a grizzled veteran of the music wars, would have figured that out before he volunteered to accompany his old friends in the Green Pajamas and boatclub on a short Portland-to-Seattle jaunt and write about what went down. But with visions of Tom Wolfe and Ken Kesey shepherding the Grateful Dead in 1965 flashing in his head, the lure may have been irresistible. Formed in 1982 by Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross when they discovered a mutual love of the Beatles’ “Rain,” the Green Pajamas have been on the scene longer than any current Seattle band. Their admirable endurance can be credited both to a steady stream of fine albums created mainly by Kelly and the fact they play out only a handful of times each year. Oakland’s boatclub features both guitarists from ’80s Paisley Underground stalwarts Rain Parade, Matt Piucci and John Thoman. They also boast an excellent third stringbender, Mark Hanley, who formerly accompanied onetime Quicksilver Messenger Service vocalist Dino Valenti, as well as drummer Stephan Junca, who (like Piucci) occasionally plays with Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot. Read Cost’s recent Green Pajamas Q&A.

The Green Pajamas’ “All The Lost Kisses” (download):

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Friday, December 4
We mosey down to the Portland venue tonight, a tiny joint booked by Portland scenester/record mogul Jim Huie, called Kelly’s Olympian, decked out like a vintage biker bar with collectible Indian motorcycles hanging from the rafters. We take band pix in front of ancient gasoline pumps and under a huge purple octopus dangling from a shop across the street. It’s hard to believe I haven’t seen the Pajamas play live since we all flew together from Seattle to London in 1999 to play Terrastock III. Since then, Joe Ross is still on bass, but drummer Karl Wilhelm has been replaced by Scott Vanderpool, husband of Laura Weller, now Kelly’s able-bodied vocal (and guitar) foil. Eric Lichter still plays keyboards and contributes originals to each new LP (their most recent is the excellent Poison In The Russian Room on Hidden Agenda). Kelly and Ross, who founded the GPJs in 1982, are pretty pumped about finally getting to play with Piucci, whose Rain Parade was a template for their own band. “I always wanted to sound like Rain Parade,” Kelly told me years ago in a MAGNET feature. The Pajamas pay tribute to Piucci’s Crazy Horse roots by opening with their most Rust Never Sleeps-style number. A pair of shopworn, neo-psych gems are dragged out of the steamer trunk tonight by both bands. The Pajamas play “Kim The Waitress,” their college radio hit from the ’80s, and boatclub dusts off Rain Parade’s first single, 1982’s “What She’s Done To Your Mind.” Kelly’s mild protests about having to play “Kim” one more time are brushed aside by Piucci later at the bar. “Hey, it’s not as if you’re Brian Wilson and have to play ‘Surfer Girl’ for the 10-thousandth time,” he reminds Kelly in his booming baritone. Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows, Minus 5, R.E.M.), now living in Portland, shows up just in time to catch the live sounds. We yak about mutual pal Jimmy Silva (who died in 1994 after complications from chicken pox) and the Silva tribute album I’ve been working on for about two years, a set that will feature the Fellows, Minus 5, Jon Auer, Chris Eckman (Walkabouts), Dennis Diken (Smithereens), Roy Loney (Flamin’ Groovies) and Sal Valentino (Beau Brummels). Back in Steve and Melissa’s kitchen late that night, Thoman finally shows up with a couple dozen extra-large specialty items from Voodoo Doughnut. “They were about to close so they gave us some extras,” he says as he doles out chocolate-covered, glazed voodoo dolls with pretzels inserted in the chest in place of hatpins, as well as mammoth jelly donuts covered with Cap’n Crunch cereal. Blood-sugar testing is optional.

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The Green Pajamas And Boatclub Tour Diary, Part 1

greenPajamasDay1Touring the U.S. in the chill of December is always problematic, unless you’ve decided to play only in Florida and California and have access to dad’s Learjet to get from the land of orange juice to the Golden State. You’d think MAGNET’s Jud Cost, a grizzled veteran of the music wars, would have figured that out before he volunteered to accompany his old friends in the Green Pajamas and boatclub on a short Portland-to-Seattle jaunt and write about what went down. But with visions of Tom Wolfe and Ken Kesey shepherding the Grateful Dead in 1965 flashing in his head, the lure may have been irresistible. Formed in 1982 by Jeff Kelly and Joe Ross when they discovered a mutual love of the Beatles’ “Rain,” the Green Pajamas have been on the scene longer than any current Seattle band. Their admirable endurance can be credited both to a steady stream of fine albums created mainly by Kelly and the fact they play out only a handful of times each year. Oakland’s boatclub features both guitarists from ’80s Paisley Underground stalwarts Rain Parade, Matt Piucci and John Thoman. They also boast an excellent third stringbender, Mark Hanley, who formerly accompanied onetime Quicksilver Messenger Service vocalist Dino Valenti, as well as drummer Stephan Junca, who (like Piucci) occasionally plays with Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot. Read Cost’s recent Green Pajamas Q&A.

The Green Pajamas’ “Any Way The Wind Blows” (download):

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Thursday, December 3
The weather forecast for Oregon and Washington early this morning was dismal as boatclub (no caps, no definite article, and they’re from Oakland, godammit, not San Francisco!) took off for a short tour of the great frozen Pacific Northwest to hook up with our buddies from Seattle, the Green Pajamas. Because even a rental mini-van was deemed too expensive for this budget-minded caravan, we decided to do the tour Nina, Pinta & Santa Maria-style with three of our personal vehicles. Since the jaunt was also to be a tribute to the Johnny Appleseed-like, LSD-greening of Oregon more than 40 years ago by the Merry Pranksters (writer Ken Kesey, former Jack Kerouac sidekick Neal Cassady, the peachfuzzed Grateful Dead and others) who daubed an old school bus with dayglo paint, dubbed it “FURTHUR” and aimed it north, we all assumed code names for the duration. Former Rain Parade guitarist Matt Piucci was “Jerry,” guitarist Mark Hanley was “Weir,” drummer Stephan Junca was “Bill the Drummer” and another ex-Rain Parade guitarist, John Thoman, was “Lesh.” I was “Kesey,” so I had to bring a notepad and pen and try to remain upright to make some sense of our voyage. Hanley rode shotgun with Piucci in his white Palm Beach-gangster “Big Pussy” LTD limo (limited to only 10 million); Junca and I lit out in my dark-red Mini Cooper; while Thoman and his wife Rachel lagged behind as most of the gear was stowed in his boxy little metallic green Honda Element. Junca and I tried to get the rest to pull over in Redding, 300 miles to the north, for a leisurely Thai lunch. But no, the siren’s song of fast food was too much for Piucci and Hanley who gulped something down in Weed, Calif. (“I knew you’d stop there. You’re so predictable!” I railed at Piucci on the cell.)  About 20 miles south of Portland (and 670 miles into our journey), as the temperature dipped into the low-20s, the tour was almost scuppered before it began. Stuck in the fast lane with a concrete barricade directly on my left, I attempted to pass a speeding 18-wheel juggernaut in the number-two lane. Just before I reached the midpoint of the maneuver, the trucker signaled and began to pull into my lane for reasons known only to him. With nowhere to go, we were about to be smashed like a mosquito as he inched ever closer (or worse still, swatted over the barricade like a badminton birdie into oncoming traffic). Without thinking, I slammed on my brakes, didn’t get rear-ended by the astute driver behind me and eased backward out of the danger zone just as the dimwitted trucker completed his lane change. Capt. Sully Sullenberger probably couldn’t have done it much better. We were too rattled to see if there was a “How’s My Driving?” sign with an 800 number on the back of his truck. We arrived at the beautiful, prairie-style home of Matt’s brother, Portland attorney Steve Piucci and his wife Melissa Powers, just in time to watch what was one of the biggest sporting events in Oregon history: the annual Civil War college football classic between Oregon and Oregon State, with the winner tabbed to play Ohio State in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. The Oregon Ducks, wearing one of their myriad mix ‘n’ match uniforms, finally prevailed over the black-and-orange clad Oregon State Beavers to nab the roses. As an ice rink grows overnight on the deck outside, we dream of balmy Pasadena far to the south.

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