Waking up in Sherwood, OR at my aunt and uncle’s house is like waking up on a retreat. It’s quiet, there’s a beautiful view, there’s eggs from their neighbors chickens, freshly made sour dough bread for toast and two of the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet.
My aunt Mary Ann is almost 80. Beyond the fact that she’s been to all 7 continents, run marathons, recognized by the WHO for the work she’s done with women worldwide ~ beyond all that, about 5 years ago she started a non profit to help women in Kenya that are victims of sexual abuse, obstetric fistula survivors and it has grown and grown and grown. It’s expanding to teach the women there how to educate other women about their bodies and how quilting and making things to survive. I’m doing a very bad job of explaining it all but trust me it’s amazing. She’s leaving in April to spend a few weeks in Kenya helping and learning and just being all around amazing.
And her husband Steve? He’s the CFO and incredible too.
Anyway - it’s great to get to see them as it’s been a few years and we have a nice afternoon tea and just catch up before I have to head out to tonight’s show.
I’m playing Sam Bond’s in Eugene tonight. They have my name on the marquee and everything is even spelled write.* Molly is behind the bar and she’s a hot shit. Her dad was a drummer, she followed the Grateful Dead around for a few years, once stayed at Dave Grohl’s house with a friend - not knowing who Dave Grohl was and has a big sleeve tattoo of Waylon Jennings.
The stage is decent sized and for a place that looks mostly like a restaurant (with decent food, I might add) this is a full on rock club. It seems to be run by ex-punks if that makes sense. There’s a bit of a rockabilly vibe here and Sean the soundman has that lean, mean Mike Ness quality to him.
There’s so much to be confused by contradictory things here. Grateful Dead, Old school punk rock and….Waylon Jennings? I think they might like me.
I use one of my drink tickets to get a cup of tea and casually set up my stuff. When it’s time to go I launch into it and I get a smattering of claps. This crowd has seen it all and I’m getting a little bit of show-us-what-you-got-ness from them and I give it hell. By the end I think I’ve made a few fans and I get the best APB sing along yet, just by singing the part once, no practice. My stories don’t seem to land so well tonight but that could’ve just been my perception. They really dig when I make a big noise and strum hard or do some fancy bits on the guitar. I close with Angelia and I’m so annoyed by a voice crack in the second to last line of the song but it still goes over and I end with a much fuller room than I started.
The band after me is good but up close was too much sound, from the back of the room it’s a better blend. I’m sitting with Joshua who has seen me play in Berkeley and I’m a bit restless and go sit outside for a few.
There’s these large barn doors behind the stage and out back you can hear all the music pretty clearly but at much reduced volume and I sit down at a picnic table and Molly is out back now hanging out with some other folks who all really loved my set. Ask questions and Molly says “I’ll bet you’re a guy who has some stories.” Ha!! It’s a fun hang in the back patio for a bit and then Joshua joins us and he and I have a long conversation about octave mandolins.** I even give him one of my mandolin picks and then I sell a few cds, and the stickers are a big hit. They love the “this machine shares love”. Then the club’s booker finds me to give me my dough and tells me “you tore it up tonight.”*** and invites me back.
I’m already planning my next trip up the coast. I’ve been doing this solo touring thing a while now and it’s amazing to me that it’s a constant learning thing all the time. Like, you can be good at singing and playing guitar but that’s not even half of it if you really want to connect with people and I feel like this tour was a lot more immersive for me. Part of that was just having the time to show up and not be rushing to set up, having time to get to know the room, the people and connecting before I even played. You really need that time. That and staying after as well. There’s so many folks that just blow in for their own set and then blow back out again and it’s robbing you of that connection not just with the venue but with the other musicians and potential fans.
More connection = more better.
I didn’t make toast for anyone tonight, it seemed in poor taste to bring a toaster and raisin bread into a restaurant. Have to figure out if I’m going to keep doing this moving forward. I like it, it’s fun but it may not be feasible everywhere.
**Apparently I need an octave mandolin. I have long suspected this was the case but now I know.
***This is a compliment.