...being the observations and navigational extracts
from the ongoing expeditions of San Francisco Piano Pop trio
True Margrit

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Outing with Batman & Robin

Being Chapter the 10th in the 2010 SXSW March into Spring Haiku & BBQ Tour--a novella
Saturday, March 20th , 2010

Morning comes really soon when you go to sleep at 4:30 am. Ye gods! What were we thinking? Well... hellfire. We start the shower queue while Michelle & Kurt fry up eggs, and butter toast, and brew coffee. Bless them.

There is no wiggle room on departure time today. We have to get to Dallas for an in-store appearance and it's in an hour. Then we have a four hour (ish) drive to a ten o' clock show in San Antonio. Are we insane? Probably. Shut up.

We pile into the vehicles and pull out of the garage. I'm riding to Dallas with Kurt and Michelle--a welcome break from the claustrophobia of my jumper-seat nest in Andrew's truck...or is it claustrophilia under which I operate...? Hmm.

We arrive at our first venue (Bill's Records--yes a REAL record store!!) and a solo performer (KEG) is making real-life-hair-metal magic. He's rocking out on his axe to drum-loops, flicking his tongue in time to manic double kick drum patterns, leaping perilously off the stage virtually into the arms of the groovy dads & their kids and a couple of substantial-looking biker-types--and our handful of fans---all who appear to be quite genuinely entertained. We're up next.

As I carry in gear I receive the first in a series of reactions to the t-shirt I happened to throw on this morning. It features an image of Batman & Robin making out with the general outline of their embrace cleverly forming a fat red heart encircling the whole romantic moment (it's rather sweet). A sixty-something fellow sees the shirt and delivers a small soliloquy about how jealous he is of me living in San Francisco where anyone can be anything they want-- unlike here in Texas--and then he bursts into tears. I hug him, wondering at the long tale of sorrows that a human might endure alone. I swear.

Excusing myself, I go to the restroom to dab at my eyes, put on some fresh eyeliner, pull myself together. This is the whole point of going on the road: to really connect with new people. And it could enlighten you. Or break your dang heart.

Meanwhile, Keg winds up his set with a stage-dive that almost lands him in the cash register--and now it's time for True Margrit. We play some tunes and hand out stickers to all the kids. A few adults take them too--who doesn't like stickers? And we have some pretty ones. The kids laugh when I jump on the keyboard. We wind up our set, tear down, pack up the truck. We know we need to get on the road, but it's hard to say goodbye to Kurt & Michelle--they've traveled many miles with us, listened to three shows, and hosted us in their home. Oh hell. Here we go. Bye, y'all!!

We are instantaneously lost. DAMMIT ALL! It happens to be near Lamar Street. Every town in Texas has a Lamar Street & we ALWAYS get lost near it. Seriously. LAMAR!

But we right ourselves quickly and speed off for points southwest. As we near Austin we start seeing the billboards for a BBQ restaurant that sports a cartoon of a distraught-looking bovine beast. Andrew lets out an anxious moo that goes with the image. It makes us all cackle hysterically. It's going to be a long day.

We stop for fuel at a massive restaurant/gift-shop/gas-station. The wind is blowing unpleasantly cold gales off the lonesome plains. We hurry inside. They have BBQ. Hmmm. We are actually hungry. Predictably, we are soon all sitting down to a gas-station BBQ lunch. It is good! But no, it's not Andrew's Ideal Texas BBQ Moment. Not yet.

We drive on. I doze off with my face mashed into my pillow. Oof. We stop for fuel and I buy some revivifying chocolate. The cashier says to me,"Heh heh. where's you get that shirt?" I laugh & confess to him that I stole it from my roommate. Batman & Robin continue to be an icebreaker today.

The sun sets. We are still two hours from San Antonio--at least. We drive on. I warm my voice up singing along to some Led Zeppelin. The guys are patient.

We finally pull in to our venue, Gig-On-The-Strip around 9:00 pm. It's a funky fun storefront space packed with mis-matched couches, Indian bedspreads, strings of X-mas lights. Some nights it ends up being an all-ages hangout for students going to UTSA & other local schools/colleges. Ruben, the proprietor greets us jovially and gives us bottles of water. I settle into a couch to write a setlist. Andrew heads to the bar next door to get a before-gig beer.

When he returns we drag our gear through the back door. It swings shut and locks us out several times and one of us has to go sheepishly around to the front door. Fooled me once, twice...oops.

The first act goes on--3D Friends --a singer/performer with cool loops, effects, excellent melodies, and a sweet tenor. He informs the crowd that this is his first gig-- wow, well, he's a natural! He's followed by the very talented James Merryman, a Harry Potter-esque singer-songwriter and keyboardist with great ease as a performer and wizardly levels of moxie.

And then it's our turn. We place our gear onstage and have at it. Instead of our road weariness dominating the set, some devil-may-care late-night fury has taken possession of us and we hurl ourselves into the grooves, and the melodies mean something new for this exact moment in this city, on this planet, right here and now. I see all eyes in the room riveted on us and suddenly every beat is expanded into a long history of boisterous rhythm, sound, and vibrations. We rock the house.

I exit my keyboard at the end of the set and a young woman reclining upon a velvety couch catches my eye and says: "Flawless". Wow--thanks! I love that kind of review! A few more comments of a glowing persuasion are offered to us from others. NICE!

A guy at one table asks, "hey what's on your t-shirt?"

I say, "Batman & Robin sharing a special moment...I'm so glad those lonely superheroes found each other. I just wish The Dark Knight could make an honest man of the Boy Wonder." The table chuckles. Hey! I'm here all week. Well...only another hour, actually.

I hang by the merch table. One well-coiffed youth approaches and wants to know if I've seen the movie, "Milk". I tell him I did see it & that in fact, I saw at the Castro Theatre near where Harvey Milk had his famous camera shop. He looks pleased about this story and then he buys our CD. We shake hands companionably, if somewhat formally. Folks are quite polite here in Texas.

We pack the truck. Once the adrenaline starts to wear off, I am ravenous. Gary & Andrew are non-committal about their current food needs, but I ask Ruben for a Mexican restaurant recommendation. He draws a wee map to his fave place and send us on our way. With this power of suggestion Gary & Andrew are soon on board for this last stop before we finish the today's giant travel loop. After a few false starts we find the eatery and settle in to a table. The guys both order an ultra-turbo-mucho-meat burrito with bacon, pork, beef, and --god knows, a turducken, maybe. I get two tacos-- a veggie one and a potato chorizo one. They are, like a buck and half each.... wow! Cheaper than the Mission in San Francisco! The chips are super crunchy, thin, and perfect and with the garlicky salsa, quite heavenly.

After the edge of hunger is taken off, we look around the room. How about that--the place is filled mostly with guys on dates with each other. It's as if San Francisco's Mission and Castro Districts had gotten married-- a straight-up traditional taqueria that can't even think straight. Oh yeah--I remember then that Ruben had mentioned to us that the gay bars were letting out & the restaurant would be packed. It's a proper environment for Batman & Robin. Interestingly enough, nobody here comments on my shirt.

Satisfied from our delectable repast we pile in our trusty vehicle and turn northwards to Austin--and Julie & David's comfy home and the beds that beckon like beacons. There we will sleep in. And tomorrow is our only day off (on this entire trip) from BOTH gigging AND driving. And it's Sunday. God bless America.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Wilds of Texas

Being Chapter the 9th of The 2010 SxSW March into Spring Haiku & BBQ Tour--a novella

March 19th, 2010
After such an arduous day-unto-night, we can't help but arise this morning only partially refreshed. But we are nonetheless ready to conquer the wilds of Texas. Tonight we have an adventure in store--a trip to an appealingly artsy-sounding venue called Studio 216 in the town of Granbury, TX. We head out as early as possible--that is, around 2:00 pm.

Soon enough, we are lost. As Andrew & Gary negotiate the discrepancies between real life highways versus web-derived maps, I log on to the internet. To my delight I learn that a journalist for the Las Vegas Weekly--April Corbin--was at our show at Boomers the week before and has written a piece called: "Hey, there’s a band--and someone humping a piano". Hey, she really likes us! I read the article to the guys, and we are all cheered by this good press in Vegas. Lady Luck, indeed.

This encourages us to carry on with our expedition--we can do this! But all around us are only fields and picturesquely grazing cows...and no township of Granbury in sight. The sun is going down. The cattle grow strangely sinister. Are they carnivorous? What if this venue is fictitious? What if we can't find Granbury? What if we run out of gas? What if we have to find a ranch and barter for food and shelter? What if the only way to procure dinner and a place to sleep puts me at the tender mercies of a ranching family's grown-up daughter who is not interested in Andrew & Gary, but takes an uncommon shine to me.

The farmer's daughter
I had to take one for the team
Don't be mad baby

Luckily, we soon drive into Granbury's cute historic-looking town square. Phew-- well, that's a relief. Nearby is Studio 216 which is in a house converted into a recording studio/ performance space and the folks there are delighted to meet us, telling us they can't wait to hear True Margrit. Sweet! They send us down the street to the "other house"--apparently a husband and wife team run this whole deal, and they feed everyone at their home before the show. How totally groovy! We walk in the rambling old home and there are hugs all around as though we'd met many times before and we are guided to the kitchen to dish ourselves up servings of roast pork and taters. Then we are directed to a big table in a grand old dining room that feels homey or haunted or both. There is all manner of crackers & cheeses & cookies laid out for ready consumption. More snackings! Our hosts tell us to help ourselves and let us know we can crash here this evening if we need a place to stay. Then they wander off to settle back in on the long front porch in the Texas dusk, leaving us with two teenaged girls and a boy who smile at us companionably and return to their conversation.

Once we are filled with succulent pork and tasty tubers, we walk back to the venue. The show was ostensibly to start at 7:30 it's now 8:15, but nobody seems to mind--not the staff or the customers. Everyone is here to hang out shooting the proverbial breeze with friends, to enjoy music and have fun. No pressure.

The first act is about to go onstage and I wander outside for a peep at the stars. For no particular reason, I suddenly feel fragile, small, and far from home. I swear. Even the constellations are bigger in Texas. I make a few phone calls to various friends and siblings but nobody's home. Oh...yeah. It's two hours earlier on the west coast. Finally, I catch Heather on the phone. We chat and have a larf or two. Awwww. She always cheers me up.

After I'm done with this bolstering phone call, I go back inside and grab myself a beer. There now, that's better. The next band--Trouble in the Wind--are in mid-set. I check out their tunes with relish--they are original, catchy, and have very cool lyrics. Their terribly handsome mustachioed lead singer (Robby Gira) radiates the charisma of a tragic poet from a costume drama bio-pic about Rimbaud, Keats, or Baudelaire--but with rootsy rock. I'm captivated. Don't be mad, baby.

Their set ends and now we are on deck. We get our trusty instruments onstage. The backdrop is a large unframed canvas conveying a moody orange dusk populated by a migrating flock of blackbirds. With the fictional fires of this sunset influencing us, we burn through the songs like sparks among so much kindling. HELLS YEAH! The crowd makes us feel welcome and loved, and thus incited, we play the best that this moment allows. Time expands and contracts, the music thunders and pulses and presently our show is done. We start the packing of the truck.

While he tears down his drums in the parking lot, Andrew chats with his good friends Kurt and Michelle. These fine folks are planning on hosting us in their home tonight once we leave Granbury and head...north? East? Hmmm? I receive high fives and knuckle bumps from departing listeners. Gary organizes the merch-case and packs it away. We maintain an unhurried pace as we work-- we are conserving some vital juice. For tomorrow's itinerary promises another intricate Texas adventure map that may demand much of our will and yet reward us in soul-expanding ways we cannot possibly foresee.

But though it is now past 1:00 am, the night is not over yet. We are invited back to "the other house" for some post-gig snacking for which the members of True Margrit & Kurt & Michelle are all game. So, after the gear is stowed we convene at the homestead where we see many of the same folks who were at the show. They are mostly local youths helping themselves to a yam casserole from the oven or sampling more meat & taters & drinks & slices of cake. The homeowners occasionally appear and nod pleasantly at the gathering and pass through to another chamber. There is good-natured banter and a giddy late night buzz that comes from the shared experience of staying up late in the name of rock. We catch glimpses of members of the other bands as they whisk mysteriously around corners into various nooks, crannies & niches of this rambling dwelling. I guess they are all crashing here tonight...

However, we soon must depart, as we have miles to drive to get back to... where are we going? I'm not entirely sure where Kurt and Michelle live. I do know that it's closer to our next gig than Granbury is, and that's why we are heading there. And because we can catch up more with Kurt and Michelle. And because that is where we will soon rest our rock-weary heads.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chapter 8-Unnatural Selection

(Being Chapter the 8th of True Margrit's 2010 March into Spring Haiku & BBQ Tour--a novella)

March 18th, 2010
Around 9:30 a.m. I crack open an eyelid and remember---ooh, today is THE BIG DAY
(well, there are other BIG DAYS but this is one). First, we have a meeting with our radio promoter at the Austin Hilton and he says he just may have some good news for us--which makes us feel famous. Then we have time to gather our wits and perhaps sample some Texas BBQ delicacies--and then at 7:30 we play our first gig at South by Southwest at Darwin's Pub.

When I come downstairs Andrew is already on coffee number two and is all situated on Julie & David's dining room table, his laptop whirring. Witness the early bird in action, generating websites like so many feathery nests! And also tweeting with avian abandon about True Margrit.

I drink some tea, raiding Julie & David's jar of fancy honey. Yum! I reflect upon the phenomenon of humans eating bee secretions, it's all natural...if you're a being known as bee. For humans, it's an unnatural selection. And I perversely relish that.

Gary emerges from his esteemed repose and in moments we are all tapping away companionably at our laptops. Soon enough this scene of cozy domesticity must end--it is time to line up the shower queue. Despite my laggardly morning behavior we get out of the house and into the truck and on the way in a more or less timely manner.

When we get to downtown Austin it is catastrophically slow driving around, what with the hordes of festival participants milling about en route to shows, panels, and appointments with plates of smoked pork. Andrew is getting mildly flustered. Where to leave the truck? Andrew wildly inflates the likely number of garages we will find in which to park. We bicker about it in haiku.

Parking garages
Billions is hyperbolic
Probably. Shut up

We park in the Marriot garage, we get ourselves to the Austin Hilton, we meet our music biz contact, and we ceremoniously sign some papers that could be the first steps that lead to... well, I don't want to jinx it, but we might get songs on TV! We'll see. Our finger are crossed and hope is detectable in the spring air. Or is that BBQ?

After this propitious occasion, we go to the Blind Pig Pub and visit the Performers' Booth to sign in at the Red Gorilla Fest. Red Gorilla is one of the numerous satellite events that orbits South by Southwest, caught in the gravitational pull of this behemoth rock festival phenomenon. The Red Gorilla organizers are super nice and generously direct us to the Blind Pig's back deck. There is free food, live music, free ear plugs being handed out, and apparently some celebrity is taking pics with fans... we go upstairs to investigate. Gary & I graze on the meat & veggies being offered, but Andrew is apparently saving himself for the Ideal Texas BBQ Moment. He disappears for a bit. He comes back presently to inform us that if we want to queue up, we can take photos with the guy who played Mini Me--it's some promotional offer via an a earplug company, or caffeine drink, or--who knows really. We get in line and I have a camera at the ready to capture the shot of our shaved-headed rhythm section posing with this recognizable celeb, with his similar coiffure. In a moment, Andrew comes back chagrined. Gary looks disgusted.

"Oops," Andrew chuckles. "I called him, 'Mr Me'-- I was trying to be respectful and all--and then he wouldn't take a photo with us cuz I don't know his real name..."

"Did you not know his name either?" I ask Gary. Gary shrugs no. Oh well. I hear someone nearby whisper, "Verne Troyer, y'all!". We move on to another venue...one with great BBQ, perhaps.

We wander about taking in the sights, sounds and smells of daytime South by Southwest. Festival-goers are already drinking, musicians are playing tunes, the crowds are listening to tunes-- some are starting to look a bit worse for the wear...hmmm, and it's only Thursday. We run into a San Francisco duo, The Ferocious Few, playing on the street next to The Hot Dog King. I have heard them playing many times in my hood (most memorably on Election Night 2008 at one of the zillions of spontaneous street parties in San Francisco celebrating the big regime change). Gary recently mastered their CD, so he says hey to them.

Lunch is a hard decision with so many tantalizing options from which we must select a single experience--almost an unnatural selection to be forced to make--but after all, we only have one stomach each. We finally settle on sandwiches at a BBQ stand that has a fragrant mini-smokehouse behind their counter/ truck. As we sit enjoying our tasty-as-hell pulled pork, we see more San Francisco friends! David Katznelson of Birdman Records happens by with his wife and they hang out chatting for a few moments. How about that! Maybe if we sit still eating we will see more San Francisco compatriots passing by...

After lunch we visit an Austin treasure: the Tears of Joy hot sauce store. Gary & Andrew are hot sauce connoisseurs, so we are here for quite a spell, as they try the samples, ask question, and shop. I witness a hot sauce incident-- one of the proprietors dares a young man to try a toothpick-tip sized drop of some hot sauce that is basically pepper spray. The guy tries it, then starts coughing, then runs out on the street, coughing violently, then comes back in and buys a pint of milk (conveniently available in the cooler). After the milk his coughing subsides. Whoa. Gary tries a minuscule taste of the danger-sauce also from the tip of a toothpick--his eyes go slightly wider, but he otherwise keeps his cool. He points out that perhaps she gave the other guy more of the fiery stuff. She is impressed. Gary shrugs humbly--he is a pro. Andrew and he both joyously buy some various rare hot sauces. I observe all the foregoing with amused detachment. Hot sauces are definitely one of those perverse unnatural selections--but not mine.

It is now time to get to our venue. We accomplish the necessary juggling of gear to Darwin's Pub from the parking garage. As I labor round the corner from 6th Street with the burden of my keyboard, I see our friend, the fabulously talented singer/ keyboardist, Kevin Seal of the San francisco band, Griddle!! WOW! He gallantly grabs my keyboard from me and takes it to the club. Thanks, man! Then like a puff of smoke, he's off into the night--he's the head of the video department for Pandora and he has a LOT to document here in Austin.

In due course, we set up our gear and play our set. During the evening here at Darwin's, the crowd has ebbed and flowed with the festival's intricate and multifarious tides, but towards the last third of our set, listeners have filled in the remaining seats to check us out. We end the set with a febrile version of "Syllable" and I jump off the stage to high-five almost everyone standing or sitting by the stage. I love adrenaline. In honor of our venue's (possible) namesake, Charles Darwin, I invoke adrenaline as a TOTALLY natural selection which I can enjoy either perversely or non-perversely. Come to think of it, when saber-toothed tigers chased my ancestors, they who were the most hopped up on adrenaline survived to generate scions who could make more scions who could in turn become adrenalized whilst making music even though saber-toothed tigers are now extinct and there is no tangible need for fight or flight. Thus, becoming adrenalized while playing rock music is both a natural and an unnatural selection. Yep.

During our set I spotted my dear old friend from Oak Ridge, Tennessee, David Snyder listening and smiling. After the show he and I have a blast catching up on old and new times. We wander about Austin watching street performers and chatting.

At this point it has been HOURS since the BBQ lunch, so True Margrit and David Snyder deem it is high time we go out for Vietnamese food. I am feeling the sense of relief that washes over one after a big gig. I devour a massive plate of noodles. Yum. Someone tells a joke or perhaps an amusing anecdote. I laugh so hard my contact lens flips into a little ball way up in the farthest northern reaches of my eyelid. Ouch..it is time to go home.

We get lost briefly on the way back to Julie & David's house. DAMMIT! it's hard on the old pride to call for help--again. But soon enough we are back at our current base camp and I'm able to extricate the crinkled contact lens from my eye and give my beleaguered eyes a good rinse with saline solution.

Phew. And with clean eyes, full stomach, and ringing ears I slumber.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chapter 7-Fathers and Sons and Mothers and Daughters and Chicken and Waffles

(Being Chapter the 7th of the 2010 SxSw March into Spring Haiku and BBQ tour--a novella)

At the very crack of dawn--well, ok it's already 8:30---we all shuffle kitchenwards from whence the fragrance of coffee is emanating and Kenneth is cranking out Julia Child-style omelets. Oh. Yes. I have been working on my JC omelet technique--and I'm not bad at it. But as we learned on the previous tour, Andrew TOTALLY has it down. And Kenneth's version of the JC omelet, we learn today, is damned good, too.

I start quoting my favorite lines from the "Omelet Show" episode of Julia Child's 1960s show, The French Chef (I recently watched it at home, as I have the dvd set).
"Wait until the butter FOAMS, but don't let it BURN or it will taste CHEAP!" I squeak out my weak impersonation... Heh heh, terrible. But Meryl Streep portraying Julia Child in "Julie and Julia"--now, that is TOTAL genius. Dude.

We all munch on our omelets and toasts companionably. We chat & chat & smile & laugh and it's getting a wee bit later than we ever intended to leave. Oops. But it's my Aunt! My Uncle! MY MOMMY! They are amusing. And they are family. Finally we tear ourselves away. Bye, Mom! I love you--see you this summer in Portland at my cousin's wedding!! Mom looks a bit teary and I blink away a tear or three myself...

It's after 10:00. Uh oh. We have a house of cards schedulewise, with two different appointments in two different cities...we will just do out best. Off we hurry, and of course we are once again foiled by the disharmony between Texas roads and web-generated maps. HELLFIRE!

Then, when I call to warn the radio station folks at KANM in College Station, TX that we will be a teeny bit on the late side, there seems to be some question as to whether they even remember we are on the way. Uh oh. And then at about two hours into this four hour drive, Andrew gets a very unexpected call from his biological father, who suggests that they meet-- tonight--he's been following the band's progress on Facebook. They have never spoken before, but he lives nearby, well sort of--two hours from Austin, anyway. It could happen...mind-blowing.

Meanwhile, will we get to our radio interview on time? We scramble. We arrive in College Station. The staff of KANM scrambles, too. The Music Director, Grant, interrupts a nap to come interview us and play some True Margrit tunes for the listeners. All is well. And then we skip off to Austin-- we have our first SxSW event to attend. We are trying to get to town before 6pm for a party thrown by our distributor, BURNSIDE DISTRIBUTION CORP. And maybe if there's time, Andrew will meet his father...??

We do make it into town in time to catch the last band playing at the party. It's the reunion of a locally legendary punk band who beef up their stage show with the special guest appearance of a gymnastically skilled exotic dance troupe dressed skimpily and employing an official Olympic Regulation Stripper Pole in front of the stage for impressive gravity defying exertions that might be making the crowd dig the event even more--possibly--or, it is also possible that they couldn't eclipse the music any more than this, unless they were to smash all the band's musical instruments to powder. That's the question with gimmickry: if the special effects, explosions, fire, naked dancers are unrelenting will the listener really be listening or just looking? Are rock shows more rock and roll with them and hence greater than the sum of their parts--or less than? Well, it's all in the deployment, no doubt. I did hear negative comments murmured after their set. Nonetheless, I would STILL like a trapeze performance during OUR shows. No one else agrees. It is impractical, it's true. I would settle for an omelet-cooking demo. Or at least a Van der Graaf Generator experiment between songs.

The party breaks up. The crowd walks blinking out of the club into the Texas sunlight. We banter a bit with our distribution peeps, mill about, chat up a few folks about our SXSW show tomorrow night. Andrew disappears down a side street. Gary & I schmooze a bit more then go locate our drummer. We find him a few blocks away. He's got his computer out on the bar at a fancy-ish restaurant. He's working. And drinking some cold beers. He tells that us his father is going to come meet him here...in a while. WOW! I wonder if his head will just explode. Ouch.

I'm very hungry now and this particular restaurant is too pricey for my budgetary considerations. Gary is game to hunt and gather with me and experience local food-- let's go! We don't get far before we are seduced by the Fried Chicken and Waffle truck. We chow down happily on these oily delicacies and go back to check on Andrew.

No bio-parent yet. Just as we prepare to head out again, a man enters the restaurant. He scans the room and there's a moment we can see him in profile. He has Andrew's exact jawline/chin. Whoa, he is shorter but there's a VERY strong resemblance. Genes. Is there nothing they can't do? This is Andrew's father. He sees us and comes over to the bar. We make intros all around. And then Gary and I make a graceful exit--they have some catching up to do.

We stroll down 6th street and marvel at the massive crowds forming into lines at all the super-famous Austin rock venues. It is now dusk. We are filled with fried chicken and anticipation. We pass club after club in which bands are kicking into their sets, guitars ringing, cymbals crashing, applause breaking out. This night is alive with the immediacy of loud rock music being played by living breathing humans and breathing living listeners crowding in to listen and watch and enjoy...and drink beer. I stand in the middle of the street for a moment and take in the clashing genres doing battle in the air: distorted headbang-inducing guitar tones mingle with delicate acoustic fingerpicking, a lazy bluesy lick is superseded by a manic thumping kickdrum and the splash of a high-hat, all blanketed by a general low mid range ROAR and HUM, and is that, yes, a bagpipe being played by yonder dude in a kilt.

We see many BBQ restaurants on our survey around Austin and experience regret about not having room in our stomachs for more meat. We wander for a few hours, but ultimately we end up at the venue we are appearing at tomorrow, Darwin's Pub. We listen to the Clea Roddick band's set. They have the same instrumentation as us--piano/voice, bass, drums--so I feel emboldened to go say hey. She tells me that they normally have a much bigger band, but, as they traveling from Canada they kept it simple for this trip. Ahhh, that's too bad--I like trios! That's the ideal lineup for a band.

We turn around and steer in the direction of where Andrew and the truck are parked. But Gary is now peckish and is forced to order some BBQ from the Stubbs BBQ takeout window. He says it's a bit dry-- but it must be pretty good, because he manages to choke it down.

We meet back up with Andrew who has survived having his mind completely blown what with the three-hour synopsis with his father. We get out the directions to our hosts' place. It is supposed to be ten minutes from downtown. We drive for twenty minutes. We have to face it. We are lost and have to call for help--fortunately it's not very late yet. Julie and David guide us expertly to their lovely house. We get out of the truck and they commence helping us carry our stuff in--WOW!

"No, please, you don't have to help!"
"oh no, we are glad to!"

OH my goodness! This is serious hospitality!

They offer us drinks and we all settle in in the living room for some conversation. Julie and I try to remember the last time we were together, but it has just been too long--fifteen, twenty years? We were neighbors growing up, her cat was my cat's mom, and Julie (and her sisters) used to babysit me when I was a youngster in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Whoa. Later, Julie and I both lived in Knoxville while I was in high school/college. We reminisce about going to see Yes in Nashville. Yeah. Ok. And now Julie's a mom with a nine-year-old daughter. We talk about how great my mother is. I know. She is the sweetest. I tell Julie that I saw my mom this very morning. But that seems like twenty years ago. And now my mind is a teeny bit blown, too.

When I finally lie down and compose myself for the night's repose, I can still hear that musical stew from the streets of Austin in my mind's ear. In my mind's eye, I can see the faces of everyone we talked to today. I can see a diagram showing generations of lineage of my family and Gary's, and Andrew's, and Julie's.

Presently, I sleep.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chapter 6- Croissants in Texas

The 2010 SxSW March into Spring Haiku & BBQ Tour (a novella)
Chapter 6--Croissants in Texas

March 16th
Today we are to see some of my relatives (and play a gig in Dallas). My Aunt Judy & Uncle Kenneth live in Grapevine, TX--our next stop. It just so happens that my mom, Sonya Eichler, is visiting them. A wee family reunion-yay!

We scoot down the road looking forward to the lunch promised by my uncle & aunt. The guys eat Sonic drive-through breakfast sandwiches to tide them over, but I opt to wait, trying to minimize my fast-food intake. I eat a Lara bar. Scrumptious. I'm hungry in half an hour. We have two more hours to go...at least. Dang.

We miss our exit on account of fatigue and being slightly misled by our internet driving directions (this problem becomes an ongoing thread--the mapping databases on the web are no match for the convolutions & complexity of Texas roadways). We are lost and now forced to call Judy for help. She rights our route and we soon arrive at their lovely book-filled abode. They have at least 25 or 30 of my mom's paintings adorning their walls--amongst the artwork of other friends & family. NICE!

They promptly seat us at the kitchen table & feed us tasty salad & butternut squash soup with crystallized ginger. Yes. Yes. Yes. Aunt Judy offers us a choice of desserts: bundt cake with cream-cheese frosting or poached pears? I answer, "both". Everyone looks at me. What?? I'm hungry and a glutton--revile me, ridicule me, just don't call me late for dinner.

We hang for awhile, but then, one by one we all succumb to the siren call for sleep. A collective naptime ensues. The next thing I know, Mom is telling me to wake up & get ready for my gig. Whoa. I was COMPLETELY out cold. I jump into the shower.

We get it together to depart early for Dallas to allow time to hit a Guitar Center on the way and purchase that drumhead that Andrew STILL needs--oops. We have directions but they go awry. Where is Lamar Road?? We give up and go to the venue.

We all take a collective breath when we arrive. On the Texas leg of the tour, this show is appearance number one in a series of six engagements in five days. Let's pace ourselves! We carry our gear in, we set up. I get a can of Shiner since I've heard it's a classic Texas beer. Mmm. Tasty. We play our set, we tear down, we listen to much of the other band's ear-bleedingly loud set. They too are headed to Austin for South by Southwest--a common destination this week. We hand out True Margrit stickers to all who want them. We chill after the show with some friends and my relatives, and then head back to Grapevine. Done and done. Not the most auspicious beginning to our work-week of rock--but from minute seeds do forests grow.

We are all ravenous when we get back to Judy & Kenneth's home. They whip up the most scrumptious pastrami sandwiches on flakey buttery croissants which they expertly grill in their pannini press. YUMMY as hell, although, perhaps not exactly authentic local Lone Star State fare. But somehow appropriate--we Californians are misfits here...square pegs... castaways...interlopers, like croissants in Texas.

Thus fueled we go to our separate nests to dream of BBQ, glory, and rock. Bring it on, Texas!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Chapter 5- In Which We Learn Who Else Snores

Claire and Steve go off to work, their daughters go off to school. We dally briefly and then get on the highway heading east. It's another travel-only day in which we mean to get ourselves not only to Texas, but across the dang state all the way to Abilene. It's far--hundreds o'miles. Get along little dogies.

We zip through Southeastern Arizona and cross into Texas. While we fly through El Paso, I catch some glimpses of the dusty hilly streets of Juarez, Mexico on the right. Past the freeway interchange knots and strip-mall constellations, we presently move into a region of desert ruled by high winds and black stormclouds wheeling slowly across horizons. I hug my pillow and drift into fitful sleep for a few minutes at a time. I'm getting hungry.

We stop at a gas station and Andrew is delighted to discover a whole line of Doritos super-spicy chips and he buys them all. One flavor is called something like, "Explode Your Head", another is,"Detonate the Neighborhood", and the final threatening flavor is, "Thermonuclear War" (well...maybe not those exact words). When we get back in the car Andrew cracks open the mildest one. I sample one--a single chip makes my eyes water. Delish. Ouch.

We drive on.

We hit Odessa, TX at dinnertime and end up at a pretty decent Mexican restaurant that us slightly fast-foody, but with really good chips and tortillas. The salsa bar is impressive too--with smokey hot, green, and mild options. Yum.

We drive on. We see patterns of red lights out in the unknowable distance at various heights. Finally, we put it together that these lights are connected to windmills, but in the dark they appear to float like unquiet souls in the ether.

We drive on. The night is long, the darkness thick, and Texas big.

At 1:30 am we get to our destination--a Motel 6 in Abilene. As Andrew finalizes the paperwork, Gary and I notice a chart inside the vending machine. There are certain items that have a stylized green leaf icon to indicate they are lowfat. The granola bars have a leaf. The fig newtons have a leaf. And so do the condoms. Haha. Some joker.

Andrew gets his own room in which to snore. Gary and I are roommates. We can't seem to agree on whether or not the heat should be on, so we compromise--I get the bed next to the heater which is turned off--which makes perfect sense to us at this hour and condition of sleep-deprivation. I apply preemptive earplugs and slip into blessed unconsciousness. Gary is awakened in the wee hours by a peculiar purring sound. It is me. Snoring.

I wake myself up
It turns out that I snore too
Throw pillows at me

Chapter 4-Sweat Girl

The 2010 SxSW March into Spring Haiku & BBQ Tour
Chapter 4--Sweat Girl

We are loathe to leave in the morning--Brendan is a very interesting guy and there is some good chatting going on when I arise. I want to hear it all & participate but leave we must. We don't have a gig tonight, but we have deserts and state lines to cross, and...god knows. And to add to our general sleep-deprived disorientation, it's daylight savings today--but we don't gain the hour yet, because our next stop is Arizona which doesn't observe daylight savings. Except in the Navajo Nation, we are duly informed by the internet.

Maybe it's because we didn't get to eat at a buffet in Vegas, but we end up at a 7.99 All You Can Eat Prime Rib Buffet in Laughlin, NV. All we have to do is sign up for the River Palms Casino Players Club to get that extra good price (that is, three big bucks off). And the prime rib is quite good, but of course, we all gorge. And pay the higher price of biliousness. Ooof.

Somehow the stop in Laughlin takes almost two hours...what the hell??? Did we slip into some alternate gambling dimension/ dementia and inadvertently play some unconscious hands of blackjack? We hastily get back on the road.

We are heading to Tucson where we are to stay at the home of one of my oldest & dearest friends, Claire . I have known her my entire life--our parents were friends before we were born. I have countless poignant, hilarious, and heartwarming memories of growing up in east Tennessee with her. For example...once, when we were 8, she kicked me in the stomach & knocked the wind out of me (it wasn't on purpose, I don't hold it against her at all, and I'm sure I was being a punk-ass). Another time, we had a picnic in the woods behind her house (I recall that we had some cubes of salami and crackers), and we both got a bunch of ticks on us. Yuck-o. And on another occasion she gave me a really heartfelt birthday card in which she kindly referred to me as a "sweat girl"--Claire was never the best speller. Possibly my favorite memory of our youth is of Claire coming to school in 6th grade with a lollipop stuck in her hair (it was one of those bright-red cinnamon-flavored cube pops). Apparently, Claire and her sister Susannah had had a tussle & Susannah threw the lollipop at Claire whose hair was long & tangly--it just lodged up in there. I can just picture their mom, Joan-Ellen, sending them off to school in dire resignation. And then, there we were in class and our teacher paused in the middle of a sentence to scrutinize the situation on Claire's head, while Claire chuckled good-naturedly. And that's how Claire is--she is simply good-natured, always ready to see the humor in bizarre situations and ready with a kind word of encouragement to others who may also have siblings or life itself throwing sticky things (or worse) at them.

It has been several months since I've spoken with Claire, so needless to say, I'm looking forward to seeing her and catching up. We keep calling her with updates. The sun goes down over some saguaros, and we are still hours away from Tucson. Dammit!

Finally at 11:30 pm, we arrive, we get the sleeping arrangements sorted, the guys are situated, Claire says goodnight to her daughters & hubby, and then Claire and I can hang out chatting unto 2 am. It's good to be a sweat girl again.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Chapter 3—Lady Luck

The 2010 March into Spring Haiku & BBQ Tour (a novella)
Chapter 3—Lady Luck

(March 13th)
In the morning the first thought in our collective brain is about Frank over at the GRIZZLY ROCK CAFE bragging about his breakfast...in particular, his signature recipe for sausage AND bacon gravy. We head over to the cafe in order to check it out. We are not disappointed. Andrew’s chicken fried steak is the size of a village (and it fact takes village to eat it--we all have some). It is smothered in a gravy that is indeed deliciously sausagey & bacony. Wow. Our server (who is a bit Jennifer-Aniston-esque) puts Gary’s pancake down on the table. It is not perfectly round, but instead looks like a cuddly beast of some sort--we all admire its adorable ears.

Gary says, “Oooh, cute. A Mickey Mouse pancake.” The waitress practically stamps her foot in indignation.

“Where are you?” she demands. Uh oh. We have angered the Jennifer Aniston of California’s central valley. It takes us just a moment & then we all realize the pancake represents a bear, not a mouse--we are at GRIZZLY ROCK CAFÉ. Of course. Haha.

Waitress indignant
That's no Mickey Mouse pancake
Recall where you are

As we are taking our leave we admire the slabs of tri-tip which Frank piles on the smoker in the patio. Dude. He is not messing around.

Down the road we go, hauling proverbial ass, through mountain passes , past windmills, through the tumbleweeds, and miles and miles of desert. Around dusk we start passing the isolated outposts, the neon oases, with rollercoasters and casinos that soon give way to that ultimate monument to compulsive behavior that is Las Vegas.

Vast expanse of sand
The light beam from the Luxor
Can be seen from space

We stop by the home of this evening's hosts (Brendan & family) & briefly chat and get a suggestion for somewhere delish for dinner. Brendan sends us to an excellent Chinese restaurant not far from our club. When we get there, Gary & Andrew are amazed there are no slot machines. But the truth is, not every business in Las Vegas caters to gambling. Just 99%. In any event, the food is superb. We are lucky we know Brendan--we would never have found this eatery.

We arrive at our venue--Boomers Bar--just in time to join in a debate with the sounds guy and other bands about the lineup for the evening: who when why how. For whatever reason, it shakes down that we are to go on first using one of the bands
(DEVILCAR's) drum & bass setup. This suits us just fine. It's not getting any earlier. We hurriedly get our asses up on the stage and roar into out set. The stage itself is adding some pretty extreme resonances in the lower frequencies blurring out everything but the bass, but we just barrel through--what the hell are you gonna do, right? There are three bands waiting to play. It's not brain surgery. We rock the tunes. I jump on the keyboard. The crowd thickens continually (like a good sauce) and warms to us and our ways. And then it's over.

I'm feeling social and a teeny bit inebriated, so I'm strolling about offering the email list to all takers. One guy hands me his beer while he signs up. He hands back the list & I walk off sipping his beer. He hastens to my side and regains his beverage--oops, apologies! Well, can you blame me? Your beer is better! I got this crappy PBR.

Sign up on our list
I will gladly hold your beer
Sorry I drank some

We enjoy Devilcar's set and then we load up the truck. But do we go home & get a well-deserved night of much sleep? Nay! We head to The Strip. The irresistible pull of neon draws us bugs to the shiny pretty lights. We wander like lost souls in various rings of Hell for a few hours. Ersatz cityscapes and sunsets, blinking lights and tinkling bells, tourists and coeds, and hookers and gamblers and drinkers. The charms of Vegas. We head back to Brendan's where we all fall into a proper stupor for a few hours.

Brendan makes three beds
In separate rooms no less
Snore on! Who will hear?

Tomorrow is a travel-only day. Piece of cake, right?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Chapter 2--All Roads Lead to Turlock

The 2010 March into Spring Haiku BBQ Tour (a novella)

Chapter 2--All Roads Lead to Turlock ( March 12th )

We arise not particularly refreshed (on account of insomnias one through four--see previous blog). Kevin whips up a massive breakfast of English muffins, bacon, eggs, and we slurp up cup after cup of black tea. OH YEAH. We talk politics, we all have our laptops out, Kevin & Danielle's kitten, Daisy, creeps into my duffel bag--just a normal day in True Margrit-World.

Presently it's afternoon. HOW long is the drive to tonight's engagement in Nevada City, CA? Not very far- but perhaps we should motivate? The shower cue starts. I'm last and I'm slow too. Now we are pushing it time-wise- oops. We pile into the truck and blast off. We head towards the mountains. There is snow on the peaks.

We realize suddenly that we don't technically have an address for the TV station where we are to appear live in an episode of "Mountain Beat" in... uh oh, one hour and a half! Out comes the modem dongle and we find the info on the web. Phew. We arrive at NCTV
one hour before showtime. The crew hustles us into the studio and we all scurry about prepping. There is a slight disconnect in communique about what we as a rock band need equipment-wise to hear ourselves (that would be monitors-which the station does not have, as they usually have acoustic acts) so out we go to the truck for more gear--and then there's more prepping and then we hear the words:

"Thirty seconds...five, four, three, two..."

LIVE television! WHOA!! That's like, NOW! The host- the very personable, April Miranda--interviews us and then cuts us loose to play our songs.

I feel pretty shaky at first and somehow manage to tangle my hands into a knot during the bridge of "The Juggler's Progress". But the rest of the show-interview, playing tunes, is mighty fun. Andrew & I begin one of the ongoing themes of the tour-- a hilarious battle over who gets the last word cueing the end of songs.

We are winding up our last tune and the credits roll. Earlier, April had requested that we keep the music going through the credits. But the song is over. I jump on the keyboard an extra time-or three. Gary and Andrew are making glorious racket unto the hills. This goes on for as long as is humane. I creep behind Andrew's kit and start pushing him. Haha! Take that! I almost knock him off his throne. He lunges, tackles me, and we are down. His glasses fall off. The damn credits are STILL ROLLING and Gary is still thumping away majestically on his bass. HELL's BELLS... the credits are still rolling. Andrew asks, "are we out?" I step back up to the mic & say, "hi". And then, finally, the credits end. Phew. We are so badass. Or maybe silly. Hard to say. Both.

We visit with April and the crew for a bit, then turn our vehicle south. The plan is to cut into some of the miles between Nevada City and Las Vegas- as Vegas is where our next engagement is.

We make it to Turlock. Now, if you've read the post TURLOCK & LOAD
from the 2009 Oct/Nov Tour blog, you know that we played at GRIZZLY ROCK CAFE
in Turlock, AND that the proprietor Frank is a bit of a folk hero to us on account of his mad-skills in the kitchen (especially with smoked meats-and his buffalo chicken sandwich brought Andrew to tears with its perfection). Naturally, we stop there to eat. Gary & I both repeat our previous choices. I have the smoked tri-tip sandwich-simple, delicious. Gary has the peppery Grizzly Burger. Andrew is seduced by the Prime Rib Sandwich-and it turns out to be a most formidable opponent which almost vanquishes our drummer. Then we are too full to drive any more so we make our way to Turlock's Motel 6 (after a few false starts with other less worthy- read, cheap-- motels).

Andrew is consigned to his own room to merrily snore in privacy. Gary, who is beyond exhausted by now since he was kept awake much of the previous night by Andrew's snoring, now drifts off to slumberland and treats me to some impressive snoring of his very own. Damn it. Will there be a night we ALL get rest?

Grizzly Rock Cafe
We all eat some beef
Getting ready for Texas
Where the cows are big

Insomnia #5
Gary also snores
It's louder than the freeway
I throw some pillows

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The 2010 SxSW March into Spring Haiku & BBQ Tour--the novella

Chapter One:
The Road to Hell

March 11th
We all intended to start the tour in a leisurely and sane fashion, so, we agreed to leave no later than 2:00 pm, get up to Sacramento by 4:00--thus beating rush hour, and leaving time for a nice meal--and then we could proceed calmly and resolutely to OLD IRONSIDES in Sacramento, CA for the first gig of the tour. These intentions were dashed. I went off for an 11:00 am "correction haircut" to the previous day's coiffing imbroglio, Andrew discovered a hole in his kickdrum and had to go purchase a new head at Sam Adato's. As for Gary, he had- well it wasn't clear what exactly was going on. He said, "I'll be lucky to make it by 4:00- and giving you an update will only slow me down." Gary Hobish: International Man of Mystery

Thus. It was 5:15 when we left San Francisco, zooming down 3rd Street to get on the Bay Bridge at the 6th Street entrance. Good or bad intentions notwithstanding, we were now, finally on our way, after all the preparations, contacting clubs, poring over maps, hoarding nuts and berries, at last- zoom!

I sent out a wee email reminder/ mailer to our email list, using Andrew's new mobile modem "dongle". We decided we should call the truck the TMMCTCC (The True Margrit Mobile Communications and Technology Command Center). Very catchy...

Somewhere- maybe around Vallejo-- I started writing haikus for the blog. It made sense--short, concise, easy to type in the constricted and wiggly environment in my little nest in the auxiliary seat behind Gary & Andrew. The haikus become a definite thread when we would later unravel--for example whilst getting (temporarily, of course) lost in Texas.

We got to the club in plenty of time, set up our gear, and soon enough we were plowing mightily through our first set of the tour. The Juggler's Progress, Superhero Drugs, 50,000 Names, Emily, Heaven Knows, 500, Years, etc... it felt good! The last time we'd played together was in Eugene, Oregon on February 13th. A month ago- but we weren't really that rusty- just all the more ready to rock. The crowd gave us smiles, headbobbing, and general love, which always improves our sound.

Afterwards we sold a few CDs to the more enthusiastic listeners, drank some beers, and enjoyed excellent sets from The Only Men and THE INVERSIONS.

Then we were very very very hungry. The Only Men's excellent drummer
(and our gracious host for the evening's rest) Kevin Gailey went with us to hunt and gather for dinner. We found a delish Chinese restaurant, chowed down on all manner of hot and sour soup, fried pork, shrimp, beef, and veggies. YUM!

Finally it was 1:30 am... time for the sleeping. We headed to Kevin and his wife Danielle's lovely home in Elk Grove, got ourselves situated, and (some of us) soon drifted off to slumberland

Insomnia #1
Suburbs are quiet
I hear all the clocks ticking
Faint distant traffic

Insomnia #2
Awake three am
I really have to sleep now
Songs are in my head

Insomnia #3
Andrew is snoring
Gary is mad and tired
Sleep is important

Insomnia #4
Gary wakes Andrew
With curses and imploring
Please get your own room

Oh well. Tomorrow is another day of rock...