Category Archives: TOUR DIARY

Balmorhea Tour Diary, Part 5

Hamburg

Balmorhea recently returned from a month-long trip through mainland Europe and the U.K., a tour that provided the group with some of its most memorable experiences to date. Fortunately for us, band member Michael Muller was kind enough to jot down his impressions and share a few photos of the journey with MAGNET. Read our Q&A with him. View more images from this tour on Balmorhea’s Tumblr page and Muller’s personal blog.

Hamburg, Germany, April 21
A lovely gig at the Haus III&70 in Hamburg. During the show, we heard echoes of American accents, and to our amusement in the crowd were some Americans. Philly band A Sunny Day In Glasgow had a day off in Hamburg and made it out to our show. They were quite lovely people, and it was so very nice to speak our mother tongue at a normal rate. After swapping tour tales, we loaded the van and had a short walk to our apartment, where a 12-hour sleep took hold. As the sun rose high above the city, we made our way back to the venue for a breakfast in the cafe. This was much anticipated since our first stop by Haus III&70 last spring. The venue also houses a lovely mascot: an old wobbly dog named Lisa (complete with leather harness), who joined us beneath the breakfast table.

Just a short drive to Bornsen, Germany awaited us for a day off and a private concert and dinner party in the home of Nils’ father, Klaus (a renowned architectural photographer). His immense old farmhouse had been passed down from generations and held more than 20 rooms in its massive structure. A maze of small work rooms and offices held all varieties of treasures and remnants from the past as well as some high-tech photography and computer gear for Mr. Frahm’s business. We spent a good hour exploring the array of rooms and knick-knacks before jaunting out to the nearby forest for an adventure through Nils’ childhood playground. We hopped over creeks and picked up lichened sticks along the path in the immaculate woods.

Upon our return to the home, we set up our instruments and had a brief soundcheck for our mostly acoustic set before reclining in the garden with an assortment of pastries and coffee crafted in old antique Italian percolators. For the dinner, Mr. Frahm was making two massive pots of soup, one cream of asparugus and one cream of pumpkin for the 30 some-odd guests. Shortly thereafter, the onslaught of guests starting trickling in, a full barrage of important-type people ranging from architects to archivists to designers to editors to musicians. We all sat at different tables strewn throughout the ground floor before crowding around Mr. Frahm’s recently restored Bechstein grand piano. After the concert, which was by far the most intimate we may have ever performed, we got to know the guests and our new friends. At just after 2 a.m., we all parted ways for our room of choice, each with the cool spring German country breeze parting the panes.

With just two more shows on this tour and en route to Leuven, Belgium, I find myself jotting down this entry longhand in a small journal for slight bumps on the Autobahn. This tour has indeed been the best we’ve had the joy to venture on, full of interesting people, foods and culture. It will be hard to wait six more months before we return to this continent. Thank you for reading and for caring about music. We’ll see you soon.

Posted in TOUR DIARY | Comments closed

Balmorhea Tour Diary, Part 4

Paris

Balmorhea recently returned from a month-long trip through mainland Europe and the U.K., a tour that provided the group with some of its most memorable experiences to date. Fortunately for us, band member Michael Muller was kind enough to jot down his impressions and share a few photos of the journey with MAGNET. Read our Q&A with him. View more images from this tour on Balmorhea’s Tumblr page and Muller’s personal blog.

Paris, France, April 14
The U.K.: a rough week (save Edinburgh) of long drives, traffic, road closings and ferries. We were happy to be back in mainland Europe via the tunnel for two nights in Paris. As a godsend, the promoter’s friend Marco put us up in his loft in the 19th arrondissement for both of our nights in the city. Marco’s flat was brimming with musical instruments from around the world as well as a well-stocked music collection of CDs and LPs.

Night one we played a normal gig in small room just around the corner from Marco’s called Espace B. Between Nils having come down with a cold and the non-existent parking for our long van, nerves were a bit thin upon load-in. The show ended up sounding great and was even filmed and photographed by a friend of ours who we’ve worked with in the past. However, it was strangely the smallest crowd of the entire tour.

After a 30-minute walk back from the odd parking spot we found, we retired for what would end up being a full 12 hours of sleep. Internet catch-up, laundry, many croissants, fromage and percolated coffee filled the day in Paris very quickly before our strenuous parking search in the city center. Sitting through dozens of light changes at each intersection, we easily spent a good hour-and-a-half in the distance of approximately two miles. After being told the Louvre had high clearance, we realized the 80 Euro per hour wasn’t worth it. After reversing out of the enormous garage and braving the rush hour again, a light from heaven shown down on a loading spot that opened up. It was right in front of the building where we were to play and film for a La Blogotheque program called Soirées De Poche in the 3rd arrondissement.

The performance space was a narrow setting in the lobby of an artistic office space, which was jam-packed with art books and fashion periodicals. After setting up and getting all the levels and camera crew settled, we popped into a lovely little bistro on the corner for a nice mix of salads, cheeses, meats and wines by sight of candlelight upon the smoothed wooden tables. The waitstaff looked like they were in a photo shoot as did the patrons lounging with their perfect hair.

In just a short time, we returned to the performance space to find it crammed with nicely dressed folks waiting to enter. Nils played a short set before we went on for two sets bridged by an intermission. After an energetic encore, we finished the night embracing our new Blogotheque friends and made our way back to the 19th via the now-empty Parisian avenues.

An early rise found us trudging through two hours of morning rush-hour traffic to start what would end up being a nine-hour journey to the heart of Switzerland, where we would spend four days to about our first day off, one that we all were anxious to reach.

Posted in TOUR DIARY | Comments closed

Balmorhea Tour Diary, Part 3

Edinburgh

Balmorhea recently returned from a month-long trip through mainland Europe and the U.K., a tour that provided the group with some of its most memorable experiences to date. Fortunately for us, band member Michael Muller was kind enough to jot down his impressions and share a few photos of the journey with MAGNET. Read our Q&A with him. View more images from this tour on Balmorhea’s Tumblr page and Muller’s personal blog.

Edinburgh, Scotland, April 10
Proceeding a couple of long days of overcrowded, narrow London streets and too many round-a-bouts to keep track of, we sauntered up the isle of Britain to the picturesque beacon that is the Scottish capitol of Edinburgh. We were to play as the performance to an exhibition closing called The Thrill Of It All by English artist Peter Liversidge at the illustrious Ingleby Gallery. Liversidge himself invited us to perform in the immaculate space he had crafted surrounded by his lovely “Proposals,” each of which is basically a glorified to-do list that is typed and framed meticulously.

On this oddly sunny day, we lumbered down the ancient cobbled street under Calton Hill and an age-old castle to pull into the “car park” (as the Brits call parking lots) of the starkly and cleanly designed Ingleby Gallery. The music was to be on the second floor, and the stage area was speckled with trees arrayed between the sets of clean, white gallery walls. Alan Sparhawk (of Low) and his Retribution Gospel Choir also recently played here as part of the exhibition.

Peter, the artist and our host, arrived in a dapper suit with his wife, two young boys and his parents to greet us. Such a lovely picture of an artistic and musical family in contrast to the run-of-the-mill concert promoter. The exhibit closing was exquisite and turned out to be highly attended. The crowd respectfully sat in silence during our set in this beautiful space.

Afterward, a group of 25 of us, with all the gallery staff and adjoining friends, strolled over to what we were told was the best Indian food in town. Many naans and masalas later, we took a long walk through a park and arrived at Peter’s cousin’s flat, where we settled for the night. After a much-needed repose, we were greeted and escorted by the Liversidge family to his aunt’s home for a brunch of fresh salmon from the North Sea, toasts, coffee and juices. After several rounds of each, we had a lively mid-day stroll up to the highest point in Edinburgh: Calton Hill. Cascading with private gardens and residences, the hill is strewn with old ruins and features a complete panoramic view of the city and the Eastern coast line.

Peter and his wife showed us so much kindness. They are both artists, she being a painter by trade. Collectively, they have had showings or exhibits in Barcelona, NYC, London and even Hong Kong, amongst others. After parting ways, we loaded up for a short drive to Glasgow for our second-to-last show in the U.K. before heading south to Paris.

Posted in TOUR DIARY | Comments closed

Balmorhea Tour Diary, Part 2

Amsterdam

Balmorhea recently returned from a month-long trip through mainland Europe and the U.K., a tour that provided the group with some of its most memorable experiences to date. Fortunately for us, band member Michael Muller was kind enough to jot down his impressions and share a few photos of the journey with MAGNET. Read our Q&A with him. View more images from this tour on Balmorhea’s Tumblr page and Muller’s personal blog.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, April 6
It was the day after Easter Sunday, and in The Netherlands, the Monday following Easter is a holiday as well. We left early to arrive for what would be a holiday matinee show. Having stayed in a charming B&B last night, we had a short drive to Department Of Eagles‘ first record as a soundtrack en route to the renowned Paradiso venue in the heart of the red-light and marijuana capitol of Europe. We did a radio in-studio performance last year but hadn’t had a proper show in Amsterdam yet. Paradiso is an enormous ex-church sitting on the banks of one of the main canals of the city. “Soli Deo Gloria” spans the arch above the stage in the big room. On the opposite side of the building is a very nice and intimate smaller room where we were to play with a nice 100-plus seated capacity atop old, creaky wooden floorbeams. We helped the stage hands cart the piano into place, and after nearly getting lost in the labyrinth of backstage dressing rooms and corridors, we found fruit and sandwiches waiting for us after our soundcheck.

I snuck quietly back into the concert room to watch Nils’ set and found no seat empty, with the collective mass of concert-goers sitting in silence. I took a seat by the merch table, removed my glasses and closed my eyes, transported by Nils’ best set yet. Rob Lowe (pianist of Balmorhea) joined Nils for a four-handed duet, which was a very nice treat. Paradiso had the best sound for any venue on this tour. For Balmorhea’s set, the crowd sweetly applauded us to an encore, and we got to spend a good amount of time post-show speaking with our new Dutch friends, including Machinefabriek (who contributed a remix to our All Is Wild, All Is Silent Remix double LP in 2009). One group of people said they travelled more than two hours to see our set, which is always humbling to hear.

After load-out, we made our way to the hotel, which could’ve possibly had the steepest staircase known to man. It also had a good-sized cat, whom we were told was named Boy; he took stock of us by aptly smelling all our bags. After dropping our bags in our respective rooms, we walked to the city center and all kind of went our own way for dinner. Andrew Hernandez (our studio and traveling live sound engineer) and I coupled up and ended getting some American fare at a pretty touristy spot. An hour or two later, we met up with the rest of the group and walked back to the hotel via the meandering canals and narrow cobblestone streets.

I am writing this sitting up in bed listening to the new release by Mark McGuire. Tomorrow morning, we will do a VPRO radio session and drive west to Gent, Belgium. Aside from Switzerland, The Netherlands has once again proven to be a top choice for stops on tour. Everything just seems to have such a clean and organized aesthetic in its design and architecture. Aside from having monumentally more bikes per capita than cars, the Dutch speak better English than most non-English-speaking countries.

We are now almost a week into tour and thrilled for two Belgian shows before a week-long U.K. stint. Travis Chapman (bassist for Balmorhea) is a self-proclaimed beer aficionado and is especially eager for the Belgian libation offerings. Our last show in Gent (which was the final performance of our last EU tour this past October) was a sold-out show packed with lovely people, and we have high hopes of a similar experience this time round as well.

Posted in TOUR DIARY | Comments closed

Balmorhea Tour Diary, Part 1

Berlin

Balmorhea recently returned from a month-long trip through mainland Europe and the U.K., a tour that provided the group with some of its most memorable experiences to date. Fortunately for us, band member Michael Muller was kind enough to jot down his impressions and share a few photos of the journey with MAGNET. Read our Q&A with him. View more images from this tour on Balmorhea’s Tumblr page and Muller’s personal blog.

Berlin, Germany, April 2
In the culturally diverse mecca of former East Germany, we begin a 27-day tour of EU & the U.K. Supporting the entire tour is our dear friend (engineer and pianist) Nils Frahm. This, the first entry of our journal, finds us on night two of the tour in Berlin, Nils’ hometown. The venue is the newly reconstructed Magnet in the Kreuzberg neighborhood just off the Spree River. On the other side of the river stands a portion of the Berlin Wall, now a tourist spot complete with commissioned murals from artists. On the adjacent riverside lies the newly sprouting spring grass atop of which people sit in the late-afternoon sun, slowly nursing their ice creams.

We arrived a bit early and went for a walk with our friend (and lovely musician) Greg Haines, who opened for us on the first night in Hannover. Greg is from the U.K. but now resides in Berlin, so his local expertise lent itself to being a tour guide for the nearby sights and Turkish bakery we visited. On the walk, we also ran into Icelandic friends Kira Kira and her flatmate, Elín Hansdóttir (noted artist and actress of the Noi fame). Upon arrival back to the venue, we were greeted by Nils and his vintage Yamaha CP-70—all 250 pounds of it. Big hugs ensued before soundchecks. We’d played with Nils twice in 2009 in Germany and have kept in close contact.

Magnet is multi-leveled with many rooms and several different bar areas. A nice smattering of breads, cheeses and fruit garnished the backstage as we caught up with a decent Wi-Fi signal. A few of us took a short walk with Greg to a pizza shop down the street. Two large square slices of mozzarella, tomato and arugula with a hand-tossed crust aptly hit the spot before we arrived back at the venue to find the doors open and concert room packed to the gills, sitting on the floor in reverence for the quiet ensuing set of Nils. I am always taken aback by an audience acting in such a quiet and gentle regard within the midst of a black-walled traditional rock venue. We took the stage about an hour later and played some new songs from Constellations with a good finish on the note of a new song that is yet-to-be-named. We were applauded to a double-encore, which was quite humbling and a good note to begin a tour on. Murmurings of song titles thick with a German accent were rising from around the crowd and were embraced as a very flattering sound. We ended the night with a group of friends, meeting at a bar around the corner called Wendel, where we talked and laughed until almost 2 a.m. After that, we trekked a good number of blocks on foot to our hotel. A solid sleep followed with hopes of annihilating any remnants of jet lag.

In the morning, after a walk back to the van, which was still parked at the venue, we picked up Nils at his flat and his girlfriend, our former touring cellist and good friend, Heather Broderick (also of Efterklang). We had a nice brunch in the sunshine at a cafe in the Wedding neighborhood. The brunch orders were all similar ensembles of a large piece of toast topped with scrambled eggs, mushrooms, cheese, tomatoes and arugula. (Yes, I think arugula fits in any fare!) After dropping Heather off at the train station for her reuniting with Efterkland in Copenhagen to begin their EU tour, we meandered out of Berlin, heading north to the Eastern Sea and the city of Rostock for show number three. The sun was shining, Bibio was playing in the van, and people were  already napping with mouths agape. Welcome to tour.

Posted in TOUR DIARY | Comments closed

Q&A With Balmorhea

Balmorhea

While discussing his collaboration with famous 21st-century modern composer Philip Glass on the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi, director Godfrey Reggio invoked Sergei Eisenstein, stating, “One should be able to see the music and hear the image.” In perhaps no musical act is this adage currently more resonant than Balmorhea, a classically influenced troupe of Texas musicians who create musical vignettes so penetrating that we music writers can’t help but abuse literary devices to depict the band’s pastoral sound for our readers. To some extent, this is rational (they’re contracted regularly to compose for film and TV) and relevant (2009′s All Is Wild, All Is Silent is loosely a concept record based on the very illustrative and emotional experience that Texas frontiersman William B. Dewees went through when he discovered the Lone Star State). But where much of the music that’s written for film only dispenses its desired affect within a moving-picture context, Balmorhea’s work goes a great step further, operating on that cherished emotive plane where the absence of words is a mere afterthought in the face of such accomplished, honest composition. Sit in a quiet room with All Is Wild or the band’s latest, Constellations (Western Vinyl), percolating the air around, and you might catch a glimpse of how baroque-period society types must’ve felt in the presence of the latest Bach or Handel piece. Though Balmorhea would be the first to assuage my comparison to these iconic composers—I don’t know anyone, musician or not, who would willingly invite that kind of pressure—it’s worth painting the metaphor to drive home this point: Rarely do bands create as deliberately and with humility as when Rob Lowe, Michael Muller, Travis Chapman, Aisha Burns and Nicole Kern pick up their instruments and quietly escape the hurried world around them.

Balmorhea recently returned from a month-long trip through mainland Europe and the U.K., a tour that provided the band with some of its most memorable experiences to date. Fortunately for us, the band members were kind enough to jot down their impressions and share a few photos of the journey with MAGNET, in addition to letting us pick their brain about the tour, their hectic writing schedules and the impact of the web on instrumental music.

“Bowsprit” (download):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Read More »

Also posted in FREE MP3s, INTERVIEWS | Comments closed

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):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

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):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

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):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed

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):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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.

Also posted in FREE MP3s | Comments closed