San Diego, CA – “Rock The Casbah” -March 19, 1999

The Casbah is an institution.  It’s a 175-capacity venue with a tall stage in a tight space which makes me feel like a bat wrapped upside down in a cave.  All the great West Coast bands cut their teeth at The Casbah.  Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins were both routing through here just 8 years ago.  Clearly, it hosts an eclectic group.  This week on the roster: Queens of the Stoneage, Nashville Pussy, and…. Us?

We rolled into town on a red carpet of concrete which emitted an intoxicating heat and tarlike perfume as we loaded our equipment into the club and Nisa went to find us iced coffees.

Never a man to miss an opportunity for a cultural experience, Delluchi scored an invitation to the Taylor Guitar Showcase and, between soundcheck and show time, Rick Fagen gave us a tour.  Laser beams cut seamless guitar faces into fragrant ancient woods.  Technicians with ancient wisdom maneuvered hammers as delicately as if they were paintbrushes.  The cacophony of luthiers is a music all its own.  It takes approximately 7 days to birth one instrument and, like all living things, a lifetime for it to settle and bloom.

Rick slid guitars into our hands to see how they sounded when played through our souls.  Even Kenny got to hit on an acoustic bass. Much to Brian’s dismay they did not make “guitars for drummers.” But he was happy to walk away with a bag of Taylor swag.

As magical as the Taylor factory was, I’ve been sneezing like mad since we left. I must’ve been allergic to something in there.  I was already in danger of losing my voice after a cough I picked up after the Garton’s show.  This is exceptionally unlucky as we’re playing the famous Troubadour in two days… Please voice hold on…

Near Utah – “California, Here We Come” – March 15, 1999

Last night, I packed and repacked an assortment of stage and street clothes in an embarrassingly large bag that clenched its zipper when I tried to cram one last unnecessarily jumbo-sized multi-vitamin bottle into its mouth. I couldn’t sleep. I was too wound up. I unfurled Chris’ map and read the highlit, yellow lines which looked like a constellation connecting Colorado to California to Oregon to Washington. I studied the highways like a gypsy looking for the future in the palm of a hand. 

‘Califonia, here we come!’ I thought.

Over caffeinated at 10 am I felt giddy about escaping the confines of Colorado. I galloped down the path in my well-worn travelin’ overalls to greet the boys when they landed on my lawn.  After loading Moby (the way Delluchi taught us) we smashed as many boxes of Tomboy Bride as we could fit under our seats, threw a red Igloo cooler stocked with sandwich fixings between the driver and shotgun, and took some photos to commemorate the occasion before setting out on the road.

Later….

We’re 7 hours into our 17-hour drive to San Diego.  There, we’ll play a spot called “The Casbah.”  Bananas roast on the dashboard and perfume the air.  Galactic is on the stereo playing funk in vain to our funkless reclined bodies.  Various empty coffee containers strune on the floor roll lazily with each turn. 

Tunnel, light, tunnel, corner, grab for loose soda cans, tunnel, tunnel, repeat.

1/2 the band is asleep. I feel so grateful to have Nisa along with me in this sea of boys.   She looks adorable all snuggled up next to Kenny in the back.  Those of us who’ve not been lullabied to sleep by the highway, are in separate worlds. We’re looking out the window, imagining our loved ones missing or not missing us. We’re planning our futures and re-inventing our pasts.

Zone, zone, zone.  Bare feet up on the cooler. Truck stop.  Gas stop.  Rest stop.  Repeat.  

I’m knitting. I know it’s silly but it’s how I meditate out here, in the middle of nowhere. I’m making a red sweater without a pattern.

Overalls.  Old T-shirts. Mismatched socks.  Neck pillows.  Ripped maps.  Coffee stains.  Laughter.  Repeat.

This part of the country looks like the moon.

Boulder, CO – “Nisa” – March 16, 1999

Nisa’s been my best friend since I was 7.  We shared the same babysitter, Valarie Nuick, who wore vanilla bean essential oil, spoke softly and seemed to swallow her laughter before it escaped her lips.  She was young and fun and sometimes let us tag along to her retail job.   She worked at “The Song of the Reed,” a magical clothing store known on Martha’s Vineyard for importing Afghani jewelry and Middle Eastern textiles. 

On weekends Val would lug us into the store. She’d unbolt a door built into the stairwell, hand us two dull knives, and leave us to work breaking down boxes for a quarter an hour while she lit Nag Champa and put Jackson Brown on the tape deck.  Nisa was older than me by two years and the most glorious creature I’d ever seen.  Her skin appeared to emit flecks of gold.  I, on the other hand, was scrawny with gangly legs that threatened to tangle in the wind and cornsilk hair that disobeyed hairbrushes.  Nisa was beautiful the way goddesses and queens are beautiful.  She carried herself above the rest, looking out on the world ambivalently while braiding her heart in thorns and barbed wire.  Oh, how I dreamed of getting past her defenses and scoring the privilege of knowing her heart. 

Slowly, one box at a time, I gained her confidence.  Under the bare blub, under the “Song of the Reed” stairwell, we found occasions for laughter.  We discovered we were both boy-crazy and confided our crushes to one another. After flattening boxes, we played dress-up, admiring ourselves in floor-length mirrors wearing headscarves and beaded kaftans. We got drunk on incense. 

Before we could drive, Nisa and I would ride my tiny white pony bareback through the woods to meet up with her boyfriend.  “Gusty,” who was 30, spicy and infuriated at being made to trot two tittering teenagers around, often succeeded in bucking one or both of us off.  Barefoot, I’d wait outside Nisa’s boyfriend’s house to keep a lookout for grown-ups while she got to first base.

Later, we dated two brothers, the eldest of “The Blackdog” family.  Robbie and Jamie Douglas were windsurfers.  When Nisa got her licence we’d drive to meet them on the shore in her beefed-up black jeep. We’d stop at Dairy Queen and splurge on XXL rainbow sprinkle ice cream cones which would stick to our hair in the wind while we watched our brothers skip back and forth over the waves.  We daydreamed about marrying them and becoming sisters one day. Jamie is the one who “takes to downtown, brown suburban in the rain,” in Sign of Rain.”

Nisa came to all my Boggies shows.  She raided the island’s thrift stores and found ways of making polyester sexy.  And when I told her I was moving west, starting my own band and going on the road she said “When should I be there?”

“You’ll come out on the road with me?!?! Really?”

“Of course!  I’ll sell your merch for you and beat the boys away.”

“Well, come on then.”

She’s been with us since March 1st.  Having Nisa in the van is like having cotton candy for breakfast.  It’s fun, delicious, and slightly naughty.  Reunited we’re immediately 7 again, back under those stairs at “Song of the Reed,” getting bucked off my pony into puddles, picking rainbow sprinkles out of each other’s hair and daydreaming about what we’ll be when we grow up.  I am so blessed to have scored the privilege of knowing her heart.  I am so privileged to have her along on for the ride that is this life.

Vail, CO – “Sleeping Head to Foot” -Garton’s – March 14, 1999

Soundcheck was cold.  My fingers barely shaped chords let alone plucked strings.  Dellucci requested Brian soundcheck his kickdrum and the rest of us zoned out, staring into the dark empty venue, feeling the water in our cells quake with every ‘thud’ ‘thud’ ‘thud.’ 

While I waited for Brain’s hammering to end so I could check my own instruments, I reminisced about the spectacular evening last night at The Howling Wolf in Aspen.  A slew of increasingly familiar faces called out songs off Tomboy Bride, danced, and played air guitar (which I particularly enjoyed).  But there were new faces too;  A group of radio DJs from KSPN said they’d be psyched to play our stuff on their station and a crew of ski patrol hotties in ragland sweaters swarmed us post-show and pushed hot toddies into our cold hands.

At 3:00 am we crawled into wobbly hotel beds.  Having secured the last room in town, we designated the two queen-size beds “the snoring” and “the non-snoring” sections.  Soucy and I took the one on the left and Brian and Delluchi took the one on the right.  We arranged ourselves head to foot and, throughout the night, dealt with a bandmate’s stinky gig socks in our faces and the occasional kick stuttering our slumber.  Kenny took the rollaway (smart move Kenny).  We were exhausted but not tired so we stayed up and talked about our dreams.

I snapped out of my stage daze as Delluchi repeated “Sally? Can I get you to sing into your mic please?” 

We ate at the venue.  Soucy got very excited about a large salad and made me take a picture of it.  Over shrimp tails and croutons, Brian told us his mother had been learning to play the electric guitar and suggested we have her sit in with us. We thought it was a fabulous idea.

We’re driving to Boulder tonight after the show to catch the tail end of The Funky Meters at the Fox Theater, repack, sleep for two days, then head West.  

Zing. I am so pumped.

Boulder, CO – “Icarus’ Wings” – The Boulder Theater – March 13, 1999

The Boulder Theater is a remarkable place. It feels full without a soul in sight.  Its hardwood floors have faces. Its ceilings are shellacked with a lifetime of laughter and applause.  Without exception, our Colorado-bound gigs this tour have been stellar, well-attended, and imperative in helping us work through kinks in both new songs and players. But headlining the legendary Boulder Theater is a special kind of privilege that no artist can deny.

We gathered as a band behind the black backstage curtain, stage left, in the shadow of the fires on stage just before the show. I don’t know if there is a way to describe the apprehension I normally feel before I go on stage.  I feel like I’m running toward the edge of a cliff with both excitement and nausea.   But last night was slightly different.  I watched my band take the stage, and saw them glide to their instruments in an Icarus-blinding light.  I closed my eyes and steadied my heart. I heard to the announcer introduce me in slow motion “SSSSSSSSSaaaaally TTTTTTTTTaaaaaylor.”

Cue the applause.  Cue the feminine “woos” and the masculine whistles. I dove off the cliff from the shadows and felt embraced, caught, and lifted by the wings of those who bravely flew to the brightness of this stage before me. 

Photo Credit: Raymond Grubb

The show was excruciatingly exceptional.  The band gets tighter and tighter with every tune.  Our wrinkles feel ironed, our flyaways are smoothed.  We’re ready to take this show on the road… Beyond the rough edges of the continental divide…  Beyond the boundaries of our beloved state…  We’re ready to ride Into the sunset.

Just one last Colorado show tomorrow in Vail before the real road begins. I’m chomping at the bit. 

Denver, CO – “I’m An Actress” – The Soiled Dove – March 10, 1999

Props are in order.  We’re trying a new song in the set tonight.  “Actress” is one of my mom’s latest tunes. It’s about an aspiring ingenue, narcissistic to the extreme who hungers for the embrace of the spotlight.

I slow walked the gas station aisles lined with shiny, colorful chip bags while the boys took turns in the external restroom, trading off a key tethered to a 15 lb. hubcap to discourage theft.  I picked out a pink frosted wig for Kenny, a white feather boa for Soucy a sequin star bandana, and hot red sunglasses for Brian, and for myself, I snagged a big red boa that was shedding before I even touched it.

When I unsheathed my collection back in the van, I fully expected moans and sighs but not one of them complained.  They seemed delighted to be cast in the “Actress” act. They test-drove their costumes and Brian even said I’d got him “the Ferrari of gas station shades.”

Vail, CO – “The Taylor Tattoo” – March 8, 1999

We’ve got STICKERS people!!!!!

This little symbol represents the sun, the moon, and the ocean and my aunt, Kate Taylor, created it when she was only 16. Little did she know then it would come to symbolize the whole Taylor family and brand generations of our lineage. Here’s how it happened.

Kate, 16, was doodling with a pal and came up with the circular image you see here. She got her heart set on getting the symbol tattooed on her earlobe. On a trip to visit my dad in London, fresh off the plane, she announced her intention, holding her napkin doodle up to my 19-year-old dad’s icy blue eyes for inspection. My dad, new to London, had just scored the ultimate honor; a record deal with The Beatles’s record label, Apple Records, as its first non-Beatle artist. He was in London to record his first solo album and though he was new to the area, he told sister Kate he’d heard about a guy in the English countryside who inked tattoos on musicians. Kate spent the better part of her visit begging my dad to drive her there.

Photo Credit: Peter Simon

On a rainy afternoon, after a long drive past electric green fields peppered with clouds of sheep, Dad and Kate found their body artist stationed in a makeshift tent. “The guy was covered head to foot in tattoos,” my dad recalled years later “and his wife had a dotted line across her neck with the words “cut here” scribed below it.” Dad slid his finger across his throat with an incredulous, ‘Those were the good ol’ days’ smile spreading across his face.

Unphased by the artist’s severe and ominous-looking work, Kate showed the man her drawing and requested it etched on her earlobe.

“Yer two married?” asked the tattooed man in an almost indecipherable West Country accent.

“What? No. Married? No. This is my brother,” blustered Kate. My dad pronounced his chin and raised his brow in agreement.

“I don’t tattoos unmarried women ‘bove the neck, I don’t. Don’t want any future husbands comin t’get me if yar knew.”

Thinking fast Kate amended her request. “What about on the top of my foot?”

“How old are ya then?” The man continued his inquiry “I don’t put marks on anyone under 18 so.” Kate was devastated. “But you have to,” she cried “This symbol is our family sign,” she lied. The man considered his two patrons as rain dripped from a hole in the roof of the tent and his silent wife organized needles on a table missing a leg. “Alright my lover,” said the man, “if it’s your family sign then your brother’s gettin’ it too.”

And that’s the legend of our family tattoo. My dad walked out of the tent that day with his sister Kate’s sun, moon, and sea branded on his right shoulder and Kate walked hers out on the top of her left foot. The rest of their siblings followed suit in the years that followed. I got mine in Newport, Rhode Island the day I turned 18 driving there in my own rainstorm. It hangs in the sky of my upper back. To me it represents my family having my back and G.O.D: the Great Out Doors. It represents who I am at my core: strength, integrity, stability and truth.

Boulder, Co – “Let’s Get This Rodeo On The Roadeo”- March 1, 1999

This morning, my band (MY BAND!!!!) congregated like a murder of crows on my lawn at 6th & Pine to pack Moby for our very first national tour!

I’ve felt tucked into the borders of Colorado as though the state were a bed with confining sheets. While this tour has us warming up in Colorado, playing now-familiar venues and occasionally returning us to our homes in Boulder to water plants and sleep in our own beds, I feel gitty about escaping the confines of Colorado’s borders and exploring the wider nation.

I was beside myself with excitement as I skipped down my driveway to meet Kenny, Brian and the two Chris’ in my new green felted clogs. In the sparse days leading to departure, I’d managed to get all our instruments insured and (by the skin of my teeth, Kipp’s invaluable wisdom, and his fully decked out tool chest) remove two of Moby’s back seats to replace them with a ‘gear cage.’

“This cage will prevent your gear from decapitating you whenever you break at a stop light,” said a nonchalant Kipp who, having managed bands for the last 10 years, should know.

We played Tetris with equipment. “This is a one-time thing,” apologized Delluchi after the first hour of finagling guitar cases, bass amps, and suitcases. “But it’s imperative we figure out which instruments fit by size, weight, and fragility and then, after every gig, we’ll repack the van exactly the same way every time.” Chris Delluchi our soundman and tour manager is a road veteran and when he says “jump” I ask “How high?” But he’s never stern. He’s a muppet of a man, with Pantene bouncing shoulder-length hair and the town-given title of “nicest guy in the universe,” or so says 9 out of 10 people.

Once Chris was happy with our Tetris-configured boot, he gave us a nod and a whistle and like obedient show dogs we leapt in the van with our tails wagging.

Riding shotgun, I stared at the postcard I’d snail-mailed to a scant but burgeoning list of fans, addresses for whom I’d started collecting last month at shows on Kipp’s recommendation. I felt bad about taking Kipp for granted the last few weeks as I realized I couldn’t have done 1/2 of this without him.

The truth is, my boyfriend Kipp Stroden, more than anyone or anything in the world (including my Mom or Dad, all the music business books I’ve devoured, and a lifetime of experience playing in indie bands) has taught me more about the ins and outs of the indie music business and made the possibility of my being a solo touring artist a reality.

I have been a shitty girlfriend.

On the postcard was an image of me hitching a ride down a country road with a list of West Coast tour dates overlayed in black, routing us through Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington State.

Was I ready for this? You bet I was.

‘I hardly know these guys I’m traveling with.’ I thought to myself. ‘Am I crazy setting off on an month-long adventure with four strangers who might snore and fart and have mommy issues and bad breath not to mention might try to murder me in my sleep?’ But it was too late.

But Here is what I know so far about my band…

Kenny reads constantly. He brings a handleless grocery bag brimming with paperback, tattered, bodice rippers everywhere he goes. He inhales one after the other; you seldom catch him unglued to a page.

Brian is constantly making up new drum beats on his “Red Box” (which we playfully refer to as his “girlfriend” because he loves it so much). He’s always trying to get one of us to listen to his newest sample.

The jury is still out on Chris Soucy as we only just hired him two weeks ago. But so far, I find him meticulous. He’s very exact, always on time, always on the beat and he hates chord progressions that are not in the same key (I’m hoping to break him of that).

Boulder, CO – “Next Stop, America” – February 18, 1999

There aren’t enough days in February!  I’m running on empty trying to juggle shows, placate my boyfriend, and find new bandmates for a tour that’s only 2 weeks away. I’m more than a little exhausted. 

This weekend I played a masquerade ball at The Foundry with The Women From Mars gals. It’s an honor to be part of this band of local, badass, musical babes who perform monthly to benefit breast cancer research.  Backstage, before the show we painted flowers on each other’s cheeks, picked out feathered masks to match outfits, and sprinkled each other’s hair with glitter.  The night was juicy with feminine energy and it was heart healing to be surrounded by my mountain sisters: Wendy Woo, Jude, Nicole Jamrose, Liza Oxnard, and Libby Kirkpatrick.

It happened when I was onstage. I was singing my guts out, celebrating my womanhood, and embracing the crowd when I saw my boyfriend get sucker punched in the eye near the back of the club.  I don’t think I gasped audibly but it was a shock.  He yelled at me about it as I tried to pack up my guitar after my set, as though I’d had anything to do with it.  I didn’t have time to argue.  I was late to open for James McMurtry at The Fox.  I left Kipp with a rapidly blooming black eye in a haze of gold glitter and partridge feathers. As I apologized for leaving he yelled after me “It’s obvious music’s your priority and I’m last on your list!!”  I hated to admit it to myself, as I pulled out of one club and headed to the next, but he wasn’t wrong.  I’m moving so fast these days that the Roadrunner would have a hard time keeping up. 

I don’t know how it happened but miraculously, we managed to patch the gaps in our sinking band.  Chris Dellucci, recently unaffiliated after Zuba broke up last month, agreed to be our sound man and HE IS AWESOME!!!!!   Not only is he talented at amplifying the individual ingredients of a band, he delivers a holistic musical meal to an audience. If that weren’t enough, he insists he loves driving vans! and doesn’t mind taking late-night, long stretches behind the wheel. 

The morning ‘Dellucci’ agreed to go on tour with us, I took him out to breakfast at Dot’s Diner. Over cheddar-soaked hashbrowns, he unfurled a road map. On it, he’d marked his favorite vegetarian restaurants around the country in black Sharpie.  Together we traced highways with our fingers, agreeing on routes that took us passed interesting road side attractions and cultural activities. Finished with the map, Delluchi slid a rubber band around it’s coiled waist and hauled a “Fairfield Inn” directory the size of a phone book onto the red lanolium table top. He said he had friends who could get us deals on hotel rooms for us for $45-60 bucks a night. “I can also advance shows if you want!” I nearly died and went to heaven.  I can’t overstate what a win Chris Dellucci is for our band.

Chris Dellucci, Soundman Extrordinare

On Saturday Brian, Kenny, and I auditioned guitar players all afternoon.  Four of them were contenders and following our last audition, Brian, Kenny and I, convened in a crowded bathroom to discuss our takes.   Disinfectants and mops hanging by a string to their poles, threatened to topple at our every move.  Brian sat on the toilet to give Kenny and me more room and started stretching his exhausted forearms.

“What’da’ya think?” I whispered as we huddled in the privacy of the cramped space.  It might be MY band but we all have to have a say in this choice.  We’ll be living in tight quarters for months on end after all, and it’s no good, my hiring someone I like, that might piss another player off and make him want to quit.  

“I thought that first guy had a good pocket,” said Brian. 

Kenny chimed in. “Yeah, I thought the first guy was good but that guy out there now, the kindergarten teacher, Chris, is that his name?”

“Yeah.  Chris Soucy,” I said.

“Yeah, Chris Soucy.  He’s the one.”

Chris had been awesome.  He was solid in all the right places.  He came to the audition prepared with all the songs memorized, a great sense of rhythm, little to no ego, a stellar attitude, and the willingness to climb in a van with a group of strangers to travel the country for little money and no promises.

“I agree,” I said, relieved Kenny and I were on the same page about the kindergarten teacher.  With one hand on the nob, ready to seal the deal, I raised my eyebrows, “Bri?” There was hardly a moment to spare.  With Brian’s buy-in, the band would have itself a new guitarist.

“Yeah.  He’s the one.”  Said Brain

I threw the bathroom door open with a smile. “Chris.  Quit your day job.  You’ve got the gig.  Can you start rehearsing right now?”  And with that, the Sally Taylor Band ship was afloat again and pointed toward the west coast.  We rehearsed all night.

Chris Soucy, Guitarist (formerly known as kindergarten teacher)

Who knows what the future has in store. All I know is we’re ready for our first national tour. America, here we come!

….But first, a few more gigs in Colorado to test drive new songs and get our road-dog sea legs under us.

Boulder, CO – “Losing MORE of my Band” – February 4, 1999

Dang!…I lost another guitar player yesterday and a soundman to boot. 

I met up with Greg Mcrae at “Robb’s Music,” the store I visited when I first moved to town to tare “LEAD SINGER WANTED” tags off local band fliers when I was still living in my car.  Together, Greg and I ambled to “Sandy’s” for coffee.  He was predictably heavy, like an overcast sky and I was anxious and overcompensating and filling silences with uninteresting antidotes.

The truth I was trying to dance around is that Greg, while a great sound engineer and a stand-up guy and, frankly, a total trouper for filling in for Jeremy since his departure, is not a great guitar player.  Honestly, he’d be the first to admit it.  But it didn’t lessen the blow when I asked him last week if he’d be willing to continue with us next tour as our sound man instead of guitarist.  I understood his disappointment entirely and felt terrible I’d leaned so heavily on him the last couple of months only to banish him from the spotlight. I’m sure he felt the transition was a demotion and his sideway glances confirmed my suspicion.

Sandy’s was alive with busy waitresses whiping their hands on soiled aprons and taking orders with sharp pencils and pursed lips. Caffeinated teaspoons clattered like dull swards in caffeinated beverages.  Claiming a booth, I showed Greg a list of shows and venues booked for our first West Coast tour starting in March.  He slouched against the hard, orange, pleather seat and in a harsh, detergent-like voice said, “$350 a week?!?” 

“Yeah, I mean, I’m losing money on the tour,” I chewed on my words and rolled a bit of napkin between my fingers to abate my anxiety.  I didn’t mention I’d already asked around town about the going rate for a touring sound engineer and everyone reassured me my offer was a great deal).

“These venues suck,” he didn’t look up from the sheet.  With a smudge for a pair of lips and a sigh of resignation, I said, “That’s what we’ve got.”

“I mean, I might be more interested if these were better-sounding rooms but these’ll just suck.” He punctuated the last word like a frog catching a fly.

“You know man,” I said, hoping I sounded more sympathetic than pathetic, “I don’t want you to do it if you’re not psyched.  I mean, the last thing I want on the road is someone who doesn’t want to be there.”

“–The truth is,” he cut me off, “I’m thinking about getting out of the music business altogether.  I think I might try to get a real job while I still can.”  He squinted at the inked tour dates like they were tea leaves that might tell his future. 

We sat in silence for a sip or two before he put the paper down.

“But maybe I’ll change my mind, who knows.”  

He stood up and chucked a buck on the linoleum. My racing mind straddled two tracks.  The first track had me convinced: “I’m done.  I’m going to have to cancel this tour. I can’t find a guitarist AND a soundman in less than an month.”  But the other track reassured me, “This is a blessing in disguise.  All of this is happening for a reason.”