Arcata Eye Scene

A-town art, music, theatre. Mostly music. Updated Wednesdays.

Clay Smith: View from the Van – July 31, 2007

Interstates are like rivers, and we are the water. These roads all lead to where we’re going, and the time it takes is inconsequential. New friends, old friends, tweaker soundmen, hot bartenders, dancing punk chicks, drunk dudes, dirty hippies and headbangers. These are our companions in the river. They float along and change places with another at every stop. Our van carries us with the flow of this tide. We rage, drink, sing, dance, fall down, get up, sleep very little, party very much, dream, hope, and laugh. Friends and tourmates My Life In Black And White rage this river with us. What’s going to happen? Something different every night.

Three weeks, two vans, one mission.
Day 1: Saturday, July 21, Humboldt, 6 p.m.
I’m sitting in the Logger Bar when My Life In Black And White show up. I see Falco first. He’s their roadie. Understand, we haven’t seen these guys for months, and it only takes seconds after the round of handshakes and hugs for us to fall right back into our easy friendship.
This is the first day of a three-week tour that took six months and countless hours to book. It’s finally here. The Folk Life Fest rages at Dell Arte, Rooster McClintock is about to go on, and I bet the rest are just as ecstatic as I am. Here we go.

3 a.m.
I get home from the Jambalaya to no power in Blue Lake. It’s dark, dark, dark, but I’m full of nothing but happiness and fucking light. We sold out the Jam on the first night of tour. Some folks were turned away at the door because capacity was reached. Those that did get in shook it like it was their last chance. Super, ultra fantastic. The sweat of the screaming throng still stinks beautifully right along with me. My Life crashes at the Farmhouse as the rest of us return to our respective residences. I can’t believe we’re gonna be on the road with these guys for three whole weeks. They aren’t just any band. We’ve formed a friendship over the last couple years like we haven’t had with anyone else. There are 10 of us together in two vans for three weeks. I am delighted.

Day 2: Sunday, July 22, Blue Lake, 2 p.m.
The Mad keeps us cool while the sun burns the city boys red. Cans of beer cool us and warm us at the same time as we lounge by the river, share stories, make fun of each other, and laugh. For My Life it’s the second day of being on the road. For us we’re still at home half wondering why this doesn’t quite feel like tour yet. There’s an excitement sounding brilliant somewhere just out of reach, but we’ll get to it soon and sing right along to every note.

11 p.m.
The tour kickoff BBQ was a blast, and our good ‘ol Blue Lake crowd came out in force along with a few non-locals. This feels good, but we’re still waiting for it to really start, which means getting out of town. Our late night will just get later. Morning will just come faster. Time will speed up at times and slow down at other times. I’m blandly philosophical, yearning to pack the van for the real last time and get the hell out of here.

Day 3: Monday, July 23, Blue Lake, 5 p.m.
I wake up sick and dehydrated. Water! Goddamn. I sweated so much during the last two shows that I nearly turned into a pile of dust. Lucky for me we reserved this day to get ready. Oil changes, van cleanup, and a new tire. The mess and minutia of piling into a van and not coming home for three weeks. Details people, details! Unfortunately I’m sick and confined to the couch for the day. The mess and minutia will have to wait for the morning.

Day 4: Tuesday, July 24,
Ashland, Ore., 6 p.m.
Tonight we play with our buddies Sid And Fancy, a great punk bluegrass group from Eugene. We’re excited to finally be rollin’, but disturbed to find that the Jefferson State Pub neglected to hang our posters around town. I’m quiet about it now, being sure to secure the food & drink tab before bitching at the booker for his lack of promotion. There is no way tonight can compare to the first two shows so my expectations are low. We’re rested since we had yesterday to get ready, despite my dehydrated sickness, so we’ll play well whether anyone shows up or not. We’re hopeful but realistic. I mean, if there are no posters hung then no one knows the show will be happening and as a consequence no one will come. Numbers be damned. Let’s just party.

1:30 a.m.
This hotel room is packed full. With the addition of us 4 ‘neckers there are 13 in here. Every bit of space is crammed to the baseboards with smelly cow-punks. We broke a record for lowest paid show. The gory detail? 7 dollars per band. Thanks for dropping the ball on those posters Jefferson State Pub you dumb sons-a-bitches. We had fun despite their promotional neglect, and now we’ll slumber like sardines in a padded can.

Day 5: Wednesday, July 25
Eugene, 4 p.m.
There’s a man. Some might call him a legend. Some might even call him a hero. We just call him Dooley. We hooked up with Dooley and his girlfriend Mary right away. They made us pizzas, bought us beer, let us take showers, and entertained us completely. Dooley even wrote the article about us for the Eugene Weekly. We play the Indigo District tonight with Sid And Fancy again. We’re getting to know them a little more, and I can almost remember all their names. We’re having a good time together, and I’m stoked to really be touring right now, but I don’t have my sea legs yet, and the pace is not set. We’ll find the rhythm one of these days. For now my hands shake a little and my knees are weak.

2:30 a.m.
Questionable circumstance. Ever wonder how the hell you get into certain situations? The show was OK. We played early. I drank too much and found trouble. Never leave the boat. NEVER LEAVE THE BOAT!

Day 6: Thursday, July 26,
Eugene, Ore., 12:30 p.m.
Dooley made us breakfast and made us laugh. I thought I was weak in the knees yesterday, but in comparison yesterday was nothing. I can’t drink on the road like I do at home. Better slow things down a bit. Still trying to find the stride. Still working on setting the pace.

Hood River
6 p.m.
Traffic through Portland was a drag, but the Columbia River Gorge is awesome, and the little town of Hood River has a welcoming demeanor. Brendan and I tried those “Five Hour Energy” things on the drive today. It was hilarious. They amped us up for the drive and we laughed like we were (mentally challenged). My skin and brain buzzed as I drove. It’s just us and My Life In Black And White tonight. I think this is going to be the real beginning. I think we’ll hit it tonight. We’re playing this little place that’s called the Red Carpet Inn, but it doesn’t have any hotel rooms. Why is it called an Inn? I don’t ask out of fear. It’s a little dive bar, and I can’t tell how the redneck-ish folks in here are going to take to us.

6:30 p.m.
The two Mexican guys think Brendan’s Que La Chinga hat is hilarious.

12:30 a.m.
Well the redneck-ish and non-redneck-ish took to us just fine. We’re all staying with a friend and sleeping in the yard under the stars. I can see for miles. Sincerely hoping to put the steam on from here on out. Spend our time wisely. Have those conversations. Kindle the fires of the Bromance. Sleeping outside together is great for that. Everyone is drinking PBR’s and singing ridiculous songs from their sleeping bags. I’m joining them.

Day 7: Friday, July 27, Portland, Noon
We woke up early when the sun rousted us and made the trek to PDX. Everyone is suffering a little from lack of sleep and too many calories derived from beer. We’ll rest and recharge at the My Lifer’s house in preparation to rage tonight. We always do good in Portland, and there are a bunch of friends to see here. It’s our third time at the Tonic Lounge.

5 p.m.
We have breakfast for dinner (sausage, eggs, and tater tots) and sleep the rest of our spare time away.

5 a.m.
The great thing about tour. When traveling we see friends we haven’t seen in ages or meet new people that we really like, and it happens differently every night. It’s the end of the first week, and I think we’re starting to get it.

Day 8: Saturday, July 28, I-5 Northbound, 4 p.m.
We play Hell’s Kitchen tonight. I am hopeful. It’s Saturday night. Should be good. We’ve found our pace. Gotten our sea legs. Set our stride. Even though we stayed up partying at My Life’s house all night we are all in good spirits, happy to be here, and ready to rock. We have some really great shows coming up, and we’ve harnessed our strength and energy. These next days will be magic.

Clay Smith plays guitar and sings in The Rubberneckers. He writes this from the road. Feel free to drop him a line at

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