Arcata Eye Scene

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

Strix Vega: Western U.S. Tour 2009

March 11th – Eugene, OR We start our tour off in good spirits coming off of our CD release show at The Alibi. Seeing so many friends and fans who have been supporting us over the years come out and celebrate another milestone in our tenure as a band makes us feel ready to bring our music to many cities we’ve never been before. We begin our travels listening to Lila Nelson’s latest CD.

As Lila and Ian have just moved out of town, and as we’re leaving town for tour, this seemed like a fitting soundtrack to start off our drive. Following up Lila we listen to Jolie Holland’s album, Escondida. Holland has such a stirring voice it can be beautifully haunting at points. Next is The Throes by The Two Gallants. We got turned on to 2Gs by Bret Bailey and the Que La Chinga guys, and this album is one of their best. It will make you feel justified burning with righteousness after heartbreak, but somehow convince you that you’re too damn good to set your heart on fire and throw it at your lover’s face. This album probably saved my life last year.

This is followed by Modern Theories Applied by none other than Que La Chinga. This is one of our favorites by these guys. A great song with great lyrics. It reminds us of our last show in Eugene at Sam Bond’s Garage with QLC. We move on to an album by one of the members of Porcupine Tree. I still don’t know the name of the band or the album, but Jay was right on for throwing this in the CD player. Finally we hear an album Colin just bought from a band called Dead Confederates. I believe Jen Savage turned him onto this band.

We met up with our good friends Power of County at the venue and the celebration begins. We have known these guys for years now and play with them every time we head through Eugene and Portland. We’ve had great times on the road with these guys, and everyone’s all smiles and laughs before the show. This was our third show in Eugene, and to date our finest. With Jay now on drums with us, we’ve really hit our stride and some of our songs are really getting some full-throttle kick with Jay’s style.

As we were packing the trailer just as POC was setting up, we had to stop a guy from beating his ex-girlfriend outside the venue. The police showed up and everything. After taking our statements and positively identifying the guy, he got handcuffed and disappeared. We were under the impression that rock bands were to start trouble, not stop it.

After a great set by POC and locals Right Left Grand, we say goodnight to Eugene and POC and then drive up to Portland to stay with our good friend Amy.

March 12 – Portland, OR Sleeping in is grand at Amy’s. We all wake up somewhere around noon, and Amy cooks us up a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast. A great woman. We then get into Amy’s new (old) Land Rover and head to a music store to look at equipment and do the “musician thing”. Colin’s purchase of a new guitar stand is followed by Portland bar hopping with Amy acting as our tour guide. We hit up a few bars celebrating our arrival back to Portland and again, spirits are soaring.

We then meet POC at The Tonic Lounge where we’re all playing that night. Everyone’s glad to get another show in together and with the arrival of Drunken Prayer, we all realized it was going to be a great night. Drunken Prayer started off the show with Brazil, and never let go after that. A great performance of What it was that Made Me Kill had the crowd really tuned in and we were already looking forward to our April 4th show with DP down at The Alibi.

We took the stage and took it hard, starting out with our louder more intense songs. The crowd took it in, and we didn’t let up from there. POC took the stage as well with force and we had a blast watching them play as we hung out with our Portland friends and Humboldt transplants (Keight from Blue Lake, Big Play Ray and Julia of Broken Hearts fame, and Brandon of Eureka).

After packing up, Brandon gave us some homebrew that he made up in celebration of our show and CD release. Our Portland crowd is really a fantastic group of people. Then onto another bar with Amy where we meet a bunch of folks from The Flying 15s (her motorcycle club). We are then invited to hang out at The Flying 15s clubhouse, which we of course do not decline. After much celebrating and partying, we return to Amy’s and collapse at six in the morning. March 13 – Seattle, WA This was a hard morning to wake up.

The previous night/early morning left us a little less than 100% (myself in particular). We treat Amy to biscuits and gravy (of which I was unable to enjoy at that time), regretfully say our farewells, and then hit the road for Seattle. We headed straight to The Comet Tavern and knew the show was going to be great once we walked in. The Comet is a brilliant dive bar. It’s small and has a tiny stage. It’s hard to explain, but we knew we were going to kill it that night. We often times play our best at small dive bars when people are jammed up right next to us cheering and slapping us on the backs while we’re playing. The show this night was no exception. We played hard and it paid off, the crowd loved it.

We also had the pleasure of being joined by our old friend, and Humboldt transplant, Alissa Morris on vocals for Mad Rain. We started playing the song, and then stopped to ask her if she’d like to join us on this song, as she used to sing it with us when she lived in Arcata. Whether or not she really wanted to perform with us was beside the point, she was pushed up by the crowd to the stage, we restarted the song, and she pulled off her vocals brilliantly. You can’t plan stuff like this. The spontaneity coupled with Alissa’s voice made the night for us and a good portion of the crowd. Seattle’s The Curious Mystery put on a fantastic show after us, and we made plans to play with them again soon, whether in Seattle or Humboldt.

After loading out our gear, we headed over to stay with Colin’s (ex?) girlfriend Rachel. It was great to see Rachel again, as she had just moved up to Seattle recently. After some catching up, another day ended for us somewhere around four in the morning.

March 14th – La Grande, OR We slept in again and had a slow start to our day. Rachel made us a great breakfast and some coffee got us all a bit ready to hit the road again. After some more sad farewells, we left for a hardware store to pick up supplies to build a new sustain rod for the Rhodes keyboard (the previous sustain rod I had apparently left in Portland), and then got on the freeway. We headed south and then east as we began to climb in elevation and enter the snow.

In a matter of hours, we had left Seattle and entered a total “winter land” of sorts. The snow was falling, and there must have been around two to three feet of snow on the ground. After a brief spinout in the truck, we continued on towards La Grande, slowly and with caution. We entered La Grande without knowing much at all about the town. We had gotten great radio play on KEOL with Drunken Sky, and booked a show there as it was along the way from Seattle to Boise. The venue in La Grande was more than accommodating, and run by genuinely great people.

We had apparently been billed as a “major label rock band”, and were being treated as such. Free food and drink, and requested autographs on CDs before we had even played. We didn’t have the heart (or modesty) to admit to the fact that we were not at all a “major label rock band”. With all the royal treatment and press we had gotten in town, we were getting ready for another great show. Nothing could have prepared us for the reception we got while playing.

Because of the fact that we were the only band on this bill this night, we had decided to play two sets of music. After the first song, we knew this was going to be a rough night. Of the sparse crowd, not a single person clapped after Carson Iceberg Wilderness. Not a single person clapped after Mad Rain. They all just sat there and either stared at us, or completely ignored us. It was completely surreal. To come from a packed, well-received show in Seattle, to a show where we had been billed as rock stars but received as total musical aliens was intensely confusing. We kept playing, but nothing was coming across.

At one point Jay stood up from the drum set and began clapping himself to more silent stares from the crowd. We finished the first set and went outside to take a break. By this point we were all beginning to have a really good time due to the sheer strangeness of what we had found ourselves in. The show had been going so horribly, that we could help but revel in the oddity of it. We then got back on stage for the second set, and we decided to play some of the more rocking songs to see if any of those would translate.

We played our hearts out, and eventually we started to win a few handful of people over. People started paying some attention, and even a few claps and cheers were heard out in the bar. We finished the set with a few new friends and fans. We hardly considered the show to be a success, but due to the fact that we even kept playing was reason enough for us to celebrate. We were offered a place to stay by our new friend Vanessa. She took us back to her beautiful house and some of her friends met us for an after party.

For what was truly our worst show, the night turned into a really amazing and wonderful one due to Vanessa, Casey, Tim, Cody, and Katie and their friends that really took us in that night. We danced, sang, and walked the streets of La Grande until four in the morning. These total strangers had taken us in and celebrated with us, and this turned into a completely wonderful night.

March 15th – Boise, ID We took Vanessa, Casey, and Katie all out to breakfast in the morning after we all recovered from a truly fantastic night. Hugs were given and it was sad to say goodbye to these three great people who had really shown three musicians a great time. A short drive to Boise put us at The Bouquet in downtown. This venue was gorgeous and had just been restored.

The stage was huge, and the sound system showed that this was a professional venue for bands. We left for a short while to meet some of Colin’s extended family for dinner before returning to the show. The family asked us many questions about our music and our tour, and it was great to explain to them the life of an independent band. To see them start to understand that touring bands aren’t famous, don’t make a lot of money, and don’t necessarily even have the privilege of showering every day was the creation of shared ground among us.

We arrived back at the venue and got to meet the local band, Play Like Randy. These guys were truly kind, and had apparently also heard the “major label rock band” rumor going around. They were so nice to us, and so excited to be opening for us that we again didn’t truly know how to handle the situation. Our tours in the past had led us to get used to the fact that a lot of people don’t really care about you or your music, it is a bit of a new sensation to have some sort of reputation precede you and be treated accordingly.

As PLR set up, we met Seattle’s The Apple War who had been added to the bill fairly last minute. We had much to talk about with these guys as they had played at the Lil’ Red Lion and we had heard about them from our good friend Monica. It turned out that they were on a very similar tour to ourselves and that we’d all be in Austin around the same time as well. Play Like Randy put on a great show, and we could tell these guys loved what they were doing. We couldn’t have met nicer folks than these guys. The Apple War were great themselves.

Their show was extremely tight, and their cover of Queen’s Under Pressure was phenomenal. We knew we’d have to cross paths with these guys again soon. We then took the stage and really played well. Although it was a slow night at The Bouquet, and all of us bands were pretty much just playing for each other, all of us played our hearts out. Every band would listen, clap, and cheer for the band performing. This energy from PLR and The Apple War (and the few other folks listening) was more than enough to get us to put on a great performance.

We ended with Winter ’63 and got a great cheer from everyone. All the bands joined together to congratulate each other and talk about what we like of the other’s sound. We made plans to try and see The Apple War in Salt Lake City the next night, and to meet up with them in Austin. This turned out to be an all around great night, and we are all in great spirits again as the clock strikes 4:40 a.m. in Boise. We all say goodnight and hope for some rest before phone interviews in the morning.

~ Andy Powell

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1 Comment»

  Monica wrote @

The boys were suckered into getting a Twitter account, for anyone who wants to follow them. http://www.twitter.com/StrixVega.


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