Aspen, CO – “Faking it” -The Howlin’ Wolf – July 24, 1999

You never know about the loyalty of your bandmates. All you can do is commit wholeheartedly to them and hope they do the same for you.

It was a rainy day in Aspen and Delluchi took the mountain roads slowly in the damp, blue light.  Brian asked if he and I could meet up for coffee before the gig.  He wanted to discuss schedules.  I met him at a coffee shop near the venue and slipped into a booth like a well-worn jacket. Brian looked uncomfortable like he had to pee.  He didn’t beat around the bush.  He asked if I’d mind him doing some “fly dates” from next tour.  “No problem,” I said, “as long as they don’t conflict with any of our shows.” 

“A fly” date is a one-off played with another band.  A highly coveted musician, like Brian, might be offered compensation plus airfare to make another band’s gig while out on the road with their main act.  It’s common enough but feels akin to a spouse asking for an open marriage.  It’s a bit of a warning signal to a band leader that their bandmate is thinking about jumping ship soon. But not Brian.  We were too tight for me to have to worry about him… I thought.

The bigger problem was apparent as soon as Brian extracted his list of fly-dates from his coat pocket.  Most of the dates conflicted with our gigs and Brian shouldn’t have been surprised, as the majority were on weekends (the most well-paid dates for a band).  Screwing up his face and swallowing hard he prepared to answer my questions. 

“Who are these with?” I asked, wondering which band was ugly enough to poach my drummer right from under me.

“The Freddy Jones Band.” Brian was talking fast, the way an adulterous husband might admit his infractions to an angry wife.  And I was an angry wife.  Once you start touring as a band it is almost like a marriage. You’ve chosen each other as partners and invested time, energy, and money into knowing not only the songs by heart but each other’s hearts— your quirks and foibles, wishes and dreams.  You’ve committed to growing something special together and rejected others who’d wanted the gig. As a band, you become each other’s people. You’d do anything for one another—But it was becoming apparent that Brian might not see it that way.

“It’d be really hard to turn down these dates,” he told me, “they’re offering $400 a gig and flying me out.”

“You know, this doesn’t make me feel so good Brian.”  I kept my eyes down on the paper as though a volcano weren’t erupting inside me—as if I could see anything other than red. “You made a commitment to be on tour with me for August and September and after that, to make a new record with me and now you’re telling me, after dates have been contracted, that there are other things you’d rather do?”  I was at my boiling point.  “No, no, no Brian, this doesn’t make me feel so good.”  I was getting worked up and my voice was betraying my easygoing demeanor.  “You would go back on your word and leave me high and dry just ‘cause another band is paying more?  That’s shitty Bri.” 

Brian looked like something sad picked out of the one-dollar pile at a thrift store.  I felt sad and angry that I wasn’t enough for him—that my loyalty and commitment to him were unrequited. I went on, “I think it’s great you’re getting other jobs,” this was a lie—a last-ditch effort to appear laid back. “I support you to do your fly-dates, but not at the expense of shows you’ve committed to with me.  I don’t think you understand how many people’s schedules I have to juggle in order to make a tour happen Bri.  I go to each and every one of you well ahead of time to get your blackout dates—your weddings, birthdays, other scheduled jobs —and I accommodate all of them.” 

I handed back Brian’s Freddy Jones dates, extracted myself from the booth, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes.  The sound of warm laughter and cool jazz returned to the room.  I looked down at Bri, looking down at his paper, and said “Please respect your word.”

I knew it was the beginning of the end for us.  You can’t put that genie back in the bottle.  Once a new shiny band has started flirting with your drummer and that drummer’s flirted back, it’s hard to regain trust.  I just hoped Brian wouldn’t screw me over—that he’d keep his word and get us through September and the next record.  He said he would.  I trust him.  I have to.  I hugged him.  He felt slightly hollow.  I said I’d meet him at the venue and took a walk around town to soothe my nerves and reclaim my heart.

As I walked, the sky came down on me.  I didn’t care.  All I could think about was wanting to quit music and trying to find reasons not to.  The rain pounded on my head and I wondered how I’d pull myself together to play a concert in a few hours when I felt so utterly hopeless. People in their Aspen whites scrambled from outside tables, wine glasses still in hand.  I watched them duck under awnings, embarrassedly laughing, they pulled their slightly transparent clothing away from their bodies and took new seats inside.

The Howlin’ Wolf

The confidence and gusto I needed to perform was not in me. I met the band on stage a few minutes late, but I my tears along with my self pity had dried up. I refused to let anyone know how beaten I felt. I owed it to the rest of my band and to the audience who’d graciously filled up the joint to pull myself up by my bootstraps and that’s exactly what I intended to do.

“Sometimes you’ve got to fake it ’til you make it,” my mom’s always said. And sometimes faking it feels as hard as dragging your ass back from the dead. But you do it and then you do it again and again and again and that is what it’s like to be a struggling touring musician. There are no training wheels. You have to build your own wings as you’re falling from the sky. It’s a path full of broken hearts and bruises and fears and embarrassments and betrayals and then, there are moments of pure bliss—an unexpected break, a perfect gig, a bubble-induced laughing fit, a moment of true camaraderie and connection with your band and audience that surpasses any religious experience—and it’s enough. It’s enough to keep you afloat until the next time you have to fake it— for the next time you have to drag your ass back from the dead.

Salt Lake City, UT – “All Right” – Zephyr Club – July 12, 1999

If you’re Mormon and live in Salt Lake City, there are some guidelines to follow. You can’t wear make-up, drink caffeine, or liquor unless you belong to a certain drinking club (of which The Zephyr Club was thankfully a part). And strangely enough, you can’t make a left-hand turn. Nowhere in SLC is there a place to take a left. I joked that the city planner’s philosophy must’ve been ‘if you’re not going left, you must be all right.’

After our long journey from Seattle, we arrived exhausted and circled some blocks, passing near The Zephyr. But without being able to turn left, we couldn’t quite get there. “Big Ben, Parliament,” we’d quote Chevy Chase in European Vacation as we took the next right, watching the venue grow smaller and smaller.

“Big Ben, Parlament.”

When we finally arrived, we were delighted by both the size and the sound of the place. Entering The Zephyr felt like entering a hug—warm, welcoming, and enveloping. The staff even helped us load in, which was a far cry from our recent handful of gigs where the staff had barely looked up to acknowledge us. Suddenly, inside The Zepher, it didn’t matter that we’d had to take the left-hand tour of the Mormon City. We felt like we were home.

While the boys slipped out for food, I retreated back to the hotel for a moment alone to shower and warm up my voice. It’s a rare, precious thing to have a second to oneself on the road. Sometimes I just want some space, but most times, it’s not an option. I’ve discovered a couple of ways to find alone time while on the road:

  • A short walk around a city block (after determining it’s a safe neighborhood).
  • Ear plugs—this is my favorite and most utilized space maker. I slip them in when we start a drive, and it’s like I’m in my own little sonically protected room.
  • A long “shower.” Sometimes I just say I’m taking a shower, close myself into the bathroom, and sit quietly on the sink in the dark. I’m not meditating. I’m just feeling the lack of movement around me.
  • Writing a song—there’s something about holding a guitar and tuning into Source that makes you invisible. I find that when the guys see me writing a song, they leave me alone and even tippy tow around me. It’s adorable.
Sally’s Favorite Space Makers on the Road

Back at The Zephyr, I asked the bartender for a strong cup of coffee and excused myself to put makeup on in the dressing room. But when I opened the door, a couple of old salty dogs sat there uninvited, doing lines of coke and drinking our beers. They yelled at me, “Hey, get outta here!” and kicked the door shut in my face. When I asked the staff who they were, I was told that sometimes drug addicts sneak in to be rebellious where they think God can’t see them. They were promptly removed.

The show was fabulous. Maybe there’s some truth to the philosophy that if you never go left, you’ll be All Right. A fantastic band opened for us, and the drinking club filled to capacity. It was undeniably our best gig of the tour. We were endlessly grateful for the confidence boost it gave us before we headed home tomorrow. It’s gigs like The Zepher with–big energy from the crowd, camaraderie with my bandmates, respect from the staff, and a feeling of accomplishment after making it through a strand of uncomfortable shows – that make it all worthwhile.

Seattle, WA – “Growing Crops in the Dark” -The Tractor Tavern – July 10, 1999

Seatle, popularly known for its annual 226 days of rain, was sunny as hell when we arrived. With some time to burn before soundcheck, we grabbed lunch in the “U-District,” comprised mostly of University of Washington students who bustled by, obviously donning shorts and tanks for the first time all year. Locals either had horrible burns in progress or were so bleach-white they reflected the sun. There seemed to be an inordinate number of people with piercings hanging off iridescent-white faces. Tattoos peeked out the bottom of black t-shirts, Combat boots scuffed sidewalks and red flannel shirts were tied around 9 out of 10 waists. The area looked populated by vampires.

We grabbed “all you can eat” at Chang’s Mongolian Grille where they cook your order right in front of you on a big, hot circular platform. You’re supposed to get free ice cream with every meal but any time we’ve been to a Chang’s they’ve been sorry to inform us, that their ice cream machine is broken. Hummmmmm.

Our waitress, a struggling musician in her own band, gave us the lowdown on the Seattle music scene. According to Stella, the “live” music scene is in a state of distress. Too many bands, too many venues converted into disco-terias to accommodate DJs and electronica, and too many jaded locals sick of hearing live music. “But give it some time,” reassured Stella, “It’ll take a while but word of mouth will spread and you’ll get a crowd out here.” As bell papers and onions spit on off the skillet, I wondered to myself how long “a while,” would take.

On my way back to the venue I bought each of the boys a “tip and strip” pen from a kitschy shop down an alleyway. They were more than a little mesmerized by the disappearing ink and I laughed as they ran into light poles and parked cars as we walked the hilly terrain.

The Tractor Tavern is a large venue—an upgrade from “The Sit and Spin,” the boardgame/bar/restaurant/laundromat venue we played last time through Seattle. The barmaid barely lifted her head as we filed in, but yelled loudly to announce to the sound man that we’d arrived.

We were part of a three-band bill with two local acts, “Johnny Astro” (which Brian liked to call “The Batman band”) and “Juke.” Hanging out and chatting with them felt like going to a 12-step meeting. The relief that comes with sharing hopes, dreams, and struggles with other musicians is hard to explain. It certainly made me feel less alone. When we hit the stage at 10PM we were met by a gratifyingly larger-than-expected audience.

Playing to an appreciative crowd at the Tractor Tavern was a small victory in a city as notoriously tough as Seattle. Growing a following here feels akin to coaxing crops to grow in the dark. Moments like these remind us why we love being touring musicians—every show, every laugh, every new band we get to play with like “Juke” and “Johnny Astro” adds to our story. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to ride the highs and lows of life on the road, it’s messy, magical, and even when its hard, it’s worth every second. Here’s to the next gig and the memories yet to be made.

Portland, OR – “Lost in Space” – The White Eagle – July 9, 1999

We’re in a Wendy’s parking lot in Portland, across from “The Goodnight Inn Hotel,” where none of us slept well. Critters Buggin’ is blaring from the stereo as a tribute to our upcoming drive to Seattle, their hometown. Their album is an air drummer’s delight. Brian and Soucy are grabbing fast food for breakfast, and any second now, they’ll be back to infuse the van with that unmistakable fast food aroma. It’s a stench made of ketchup and beef and bread and butter and sweat. It braids its way into the upholstery and into my hair. Yup, here they come.

Maybe the scent would bother me less if I’d slept better last night. “The Goodnight Inn” had buzzing lights and a sink that dribbled “tap tap tap” against the drain. My room key was attached to a 6-inch iron ball, and a couple fought in the adjacent room while their TV blared.

Chris and I got up early (10 AM) and decided to go for a jog. Working out on the road takes creativity—we bench press beds, jump squat down hallways, and run stairs. I don’t feel safe jogging or rollerblading around unfamiliar neighborhoods by myself, so when one of the guys asks if I want to join them, I jump at the chance. It’s always interesting to see a new neighborhood.

On our run, we passed a cashmere goat farm and a trailer park with a sign that read, “55 years and over ONLY.” Chris, faster than I, ran ahead so that on the way home I was alone. Somewhere between mile three and four I felt someone’s presence and turned to see a kid, maybe fourteen or fifteen, wearing a backward white baseball cap and kicking a stone across the street. When I looked back, he glanced up, and I waved uncomfortably. A rush of fear hit me as I heard footsteps running behind me. I clenched my eyes shut, praying he meant no harm. He slowed down as he caught up.
“Uh…what’s your name? My uh friends want to know,” he stammered.
“Sally,” I replied, surprised.
“My name’s Rex,” he said, turning around and running off. I felt sad that I had to be scared of that sweet young guy.

Back at the hotel, Kenny and I watched “Lost in Space,” the episode with Athena where Dr. Smith has the showdown with the green Viking. I took a shower despite there being no showerhead. Water spit out of a rusting pipe alternating between bitter cold and scalding hot.

It was a relief to play at a familiar joint–and encouraging to watch our audience grow. We’ve come a long way since our first time at The White Eagle. Our band is tighter and we’re looser on stage. Soundchecks are shorter and setlists are longer. We know how to harness enthusiasm and cultivate community from a stage.

In the standing-room-only crowd, we recognized faces from our last time through Portland—an indication people like what we’re doing and are coming back for more. The people in the front sat cross-legged on the floor to accommodate the people in the back. The cozy vibe stood in stark contrast to the alienating, deflating show in Ashland and was a balm for my weary heart. I saw lips singing along with words to my songs and felt connected, comforted and grateful.
Thank you, Portland. Until next time.

Ashland, OR – “Salt in the Wound” – The Ashland Creek Bar & Grill – July 8, 1999

Sometimes, before I get on stage I have to convince myself to rise above it all—all the noise inside my head. I have to play louder than the voices that are trying to drown me so I can hear the cleanness and purity of the music. I have to remind myself that I am stronger than my fears and that those who love me vastly outnumber those who’d rejoice in my demise. Sometimes when I stand in stage lights I want to just quit—to give up…again…and again…and again…and then, I realize…I can’t. I won’t.

And it’s from there, from the quiet, from the strength of silence, I can start the song.

Everyone told us we’d love Ashland. We didn’t. It wasn’t the town’s fault. Ashland, Oregon as a place is quaint and beautiful. It was the venue and the people who worked there that were the problem. We arrived at three, after a long, stomach-sloshing, zig-zagging ride up Northern California’s coastline. No one was more nauseous than I. I’d made the mistake of seeing the drive as an opportunity to write about last night’s gig.

A quaint wooden bridge arched over a feisty creek at the mouth of The Ashland Creek Bar & Grill. Except for some folks having a bite to eat out on a distant porch, the bartender, a red-haired, 40-something was the only soul in the venue. Chris approached and asked politely if the sound engineer had arrived for our gig yet.

“No sound man tonight,” The barkeep dried a beer stine without looking up, “Peter (the owner) didn’t feel like hiring one.” I was caught off guard by this man’s apparent disregard if not disdain for us. His reaction might have suited a vagrant looking for a restroom or a free meal so I looked for sarcasm in his eyes. I found none. The following is the dialogue that ensued:

Delluchi (with the patience of a priest I might add): “Is Peter here?”
Barman: “Uh,… nope.”
Delluchi: “Do you know when he’ll be here?”
Barman: “Uh,… nope.”
Delluchi: “If there’s no sound man, can I get someone to show me what equipment you’ve got on the premises?”
Barman (Still no eye contact): “Uh,… nope.”

We had no choice but to investigate the stage situation ourselves. It was empty save for a rickety mic stand and a roll of black gaffers tape on a bench. There were no mics, no cables, no monitors, and no soundboard. I felt sick to my stomach and excused myself to use the restroom. When I turned, I caught sight of one of our posters. Under my picture, Ashland Creek Bar & Grill had promoted “The daughter of James Taylor and Carly Simon.” Which, proactively, I’d asked them to avoid.

As I’ve mentioned before, this sort of billing:
A. Attracts an audience who wants to see my parents but will settle for a night of comparing me to them.
B. Gives people an invitation to ask inappropriate questions like— “I don’t think your mother was wearing a bra on that Anticipation cover. Am I right?” “Who’s You’re So Vain about?” and “I want to write your father a note. Can you get it to him for me?” For all of these, I have rote responses. I can’t, of course, simply go around admonishing people, that would be ridiculous and frankly, it might make my parents look bad. So I simply say: “You’re so Vain is about me of course” and “If you write my dad a note I can’t promise it won’t unintentionally get used to make a set list.” and “Hu, whatdayouknow, my mom IS totally braless on Anticipation, I never noticed before.”
C. Makes me feel embarrassed that I’ve got famous parents and yet am playing in shite venues like The Ashland Creek Bar & Grill.

But, I remind myself, this is my choice. I could’ve jumped on my parent’s coattails and ridden them to a record deal but I wanted to do it on my own—To forgo nepotism, and try to suck privately on my way to getting good enough to be worthy of theaters and headlining gigs.

Still slightly woozy from our car adventure, we stumbled back across the bridge to a sunny patch of grass for a band meeting about what to do. We could either leave, something our contract supported if we weren’t provided with a sound system. Or, we could suck it up and play acoustically. Playing the show was a deflating prospect but we also realized that to leave, would be to take our anger out on the crowd who were planning on coming out to see us and it wasn’t their fault the people who owned the bar were idiots. After much discussion and ventilation, we decided to ignore the stupidity that we’d encountered thus far and do the gig.

While the band set up for an acoustic show, I walked up Main Street to find a mailbox to send an overdue letter to my mama. Inside a post office, another poster hung and a woman getting her mail asked if the picture was of me. Half-heartedly I responded, it was. She looked at it for another minute while waiting for me to finish buying stamps before asking, “I don’t mean to offend, but, what with your heritage and all, why hasn’t anyone heard of you?”

Back at the venue, the boys were drinking beer at the bar and absentmindedly watching the Tour De France on ESPN. The endless bike ride was broadcast throughout our endless show. Its presenters had speakers. We did not. Our audience was small but attentive and helped us pull together a decent set. People danced and seemed to enjoy themselves and the knowledge we’d never have to play at The Ashland Creek Bar and Grill again brought enough of a smile to our faces that our grimaces were partially masked.

After the show, we very politely thanked the venue for having us and quietly split town.

Arcata, CA – “Ancestors”- Cafe Tomo – July 7, 1999

“DO NOT FEED THE BEARS,” read a placard on our picnic table—as though we needed to be told. If I’d seen a bear, giving it a little turkey club on rye would be the last thing on my mind. The Red Wood Forest was an emerald marvel to behold. The sunlight, a mosaic on the ground, was broken up by 600-year-old trees branches on its way to Earth.

Standing under a 2,000-year-old redwood is a lesson in humility. I couldn’t help but imagine that maybe my many-times-great-grandfather encountered this tree as a young sapling. Perhaps he was strolling with Jesus, who also walked the earth when this tree first broke through the soil. I pictured my ancestor (80 generations removed) gazing at the tiny tree, pondering what it would look like in 2,000 years, wondering if some distant granddaughter—me—might one day stand beneath its towering branches and wonder back at him. This thought made me feel profoundly connected and exquisitely small.

At our roadside rest stop we set our beefy red cooler on a beefy bench and made beefy sandwiches with flimsy plastic knives from cold cuts we bought at a crunchy co-op this morning. At that crunchy co-op, we’d witnessed (for the first time ever) a real live “dumpster dive.”

We were just finishing breakfast in the parking lot. Moby’s double doors were swung wide to let in the Northern California sunshine. Kenny, disgruntled by a poor choice of a dill-heavy egg salad sandwich, had gone outside to throw it over the ledge of a deep green dumpster. Seconds later, a large band of hippies drove up in a brown Scoobie-Doobie Mystery Mobile. What seemed like 30 (but was probably only 5) dreadheads rolled out of the vehicle wearing layers of loose hemp and macramé beaded necklaces. The biggest and burliest hoisted the rest over the ledge and they dove like vultures into the big mouthed belly of the putrid dumpster. Less than 30 seconds later, all divers poked their dreaded heads back above the trashy lip of the container.

As they clamored out of the pit, wouldn’t ya know it, one of those dirty hippies had the remainder of Kenny’s saran-wrapped egg salad sandwich! We watched them dash back to their mystery wagon, close the door and peel out of the parking lot as we stared, open-mouthed, in disbelief. Before that moment all five of us were sure dumpster diving was a thing of urban legend. As we wrapped up our own meal, we laughingly imagined the divers, between tokes, divvying up Kenneth’s tinny scrappy doo sandwich, singing “Sugar Magnolia” on their way to their next dumpster dinner.

The show last night was utterly fantastic. Lincoln, the promoter, called before we got there and asked if we wanted him to book some natural hot spring tubs for us after we finished sound check. That’s an example of the brand of hospitality on offer at Café Tomo. At the venue, the staff fed us fresh sushi and poured us strong drinks on the house. Café Tomo put us up in a grand hotel, The Hotel Arcata, on the town square. It had fancy marble floors, bathrooms with claw foot bathtubs, and dark sturdy, wooden furniture. The hotel manager left us a handwritten note next to a bowl of fancy fruit and the rest of the staff offered us hearts on their sleeves. We felt so welcome.

Each of us took turns scrubbing the road off our tired legs and arms in the luxurious bathroom. The rest of us watched a Lynyrd Skynyrd VH-1 Special on an enormous TV in the air-conditioned room.

Café Tomo was packed when we arrived for our show. The woman opening for us was an acoustic act who enjoyed teaching the audience the chorus to her songs in hopes they’d sing along. She sang about butterflies and gypsies and saving the trees. I felt right at home the whole night.

People were dying to dance. They swirled and twirled doing the dances we refer to as: “The Chicken” distinguished by flailing bent arms moving in and then away from one’s sides, and “The Making Boxes,” come on, you know it…you’ve done it too….It’s the dance where you make little boxes in the air with your hands in front of you and then you push them away behind you. If you’ve ever gone to a Dead Show you know what we’re talking about.

Our music was fueled by the audience’s dancing and loving smiles and the end of the night came too soon.

Now we’re packing up our picnic and headed out of the forest on our way to Oregon. But before I leave the redwoods behind, I would be remis if I didn’t say one last thing. If you, dear reader, ever find yourself in a lonely or disconnected state, I strongly recommend a trip to The Redwood Forests in Northern California. After forest bathing in this ancient grove, I can’t shake the feeling of being part of something much larger than myself. Standing under those ancient trees, imagining the countless generations that have come and gone, is a humbling reminder of our place in this world. It’s a connection that reaches back through time and forward into the future, linking us all in the shared experience of life. So, as you go about your day today, I ask that you take a moment to think about your ancestors who’ve walked this path before you and the descendants who will follow.

We’re all part of this continuous story, and it’s one worth honoring, respecting and reflecting on every now and again. Safe travels, and may your journey today, and every day, be filled with wonder and connection.

San Francisco, CA – “Day Drinking” – Day Off – July 6, 1999

The first of autumn’s coolness lingered in the trees. Morning—or what we called noon—arrived, spreading a layer of sunlight over my bedding. I woke up on the floor in a soup of mismatched sheets. I was dehydrated and sweating despite the refreshing breeze and the open window. I lay sprawled on a wall-to-wall beige carpet trying to remember where the hell I was.

This is a common hazard of life on the road. Honestly, most days when I wake up in a new place I don’t even bother finding out where we are as long as someone knows where and when sound check is. But when I wake up on something as novel as a floor in somebody’s home office, it’s disconcerting enough to warrant retracing the events of the night before for clues as to why I’m both A. alone and B. not in a hotel room.

Hummmmmmmm….. Where was I…..Where….Was…..

Ah yes! I remembered, proud of my relatively quick recall, I was in Mrs. Judy Delucchi’s second-floor office in Chris’s parent’s house near San Francisco. The Delucchis were graciously hosting us for our three-day break in the Bay Area. I adore the Delluchis! What strikes me most about their loveliness is just how quintessentially family-oriented they are. Judy and Bob are married with wonderful, stable children who seem adept at managing their lives. Most impressively, they genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Being surrounded by them over the holiday weekend was going to be amazing.

I splashed water on my face, stretched my very tight hamstrings, and went for a quick jog around the cul de sacs of their quaint Suberb. When I returned, the rest of the band was up. Chris D. was chopping fresh fruit, Kenny was cooking French toast, and Heather was upstairs packing after her and Kenny’s makeshift honeymoon (spent in a van with a band)—not exactly the most romantic getaway, Kenny! Meanwhile, Brian was by the pool, talking on his cell phone and attempting to clear leaves. Poor Brian! Every leaf he scooped out with that long, praying mantis-like strainer seemed to blow right back into the water. Bob (Delluchi Sr.) was at the BBQ, cracking one joke after another to Soucy who wasn’t 1/2 way through his laugh before Bob qued up another.

Over breakfast, Chris D. mentioned that a rep from the historic Anchor Steam Brewery had attended our show in Sonoma and invited us to tour the brewery when we came through San Fran.
“Should I accept?” Delluchi asked. Of course! That was a no-brainer. We love Anchor Steam beer plus we had a day off with nothing to do.
“Tonight?” I asked, digging into Kenny’s French toast.
“Well, Tom actually suggested we come over now. Anyone up for some day drinking?” Five hands shot up.

Upon arrival, the entrance smelled like hot cereal. Another tour was already in progress, so Tom and Dan whisked around the back and gave us the exclusive, behind-the-scenes experience. Our first stop was downstairs at the bottling area which brought to mind images of the Lavern and Shirley Show opening credits and I started humming the theme song.

Tom and Dan caught some beers off the conveyor belt on their way to be labeled and handed them to us, fresh and uncapped: “This is as fresh as they come, boys and girls,” he said.

And so began our Willy Wonka tour for adults. We got a VIP backstage pass to Anchor Steam Brewery and learned from the top brass about the history, art, and science of making the best beer San Francisco has to offer. At the end, there were T-shirts, hats, pins, cards, CDs, and, of course, beer—plenty of beer.

By 4:30, we stumbled out of our tour and into Haight-Ashbury, hoping to shop off some of our afternoon buzz before attempting the drive home. I bought an oversized vintage “Skalar” leather jacket at Aardvarks, a second-hand store, and we wandered through the Japanese gardens and parks imagining what this place must have been like during its free-loving, 60’s hippy heyday.

As we drove back to Chez Delluchi, we reflected on how lucky we are to have opportunities like this as musicians. Thanks, Dan and Tom for a stellar day. From here on out Anchor Steam Beer will be on all our riders.

Santa Barbara, CA – “Triple Header” -The Coach House – July 2, 1999

The Coach House is a large venue featuring layered platforms scattered with maple-yellow tables and chairs, perfect for enjoying live music. The dressing room had dark brown walls and a bizarre mix of furniture that seemed like leftovers from the owner’s last garage sale. Futons, broken floor lamps, and a haunted dollhouse were strewn about, making it feel more like a storage room than a green room. I did my vocal exercises and examined the equally odd furniture inside the haunted dollhouse—a miniature pan with a fried egg sticker, a leafless potted plant, a tiny spinning wheel and a Hotwheels car.

We were one of three bands playing that night, and a chef prepared a meal for all of us as a group. I ate rice and veggies, occasionally slipping in my goofy false teeth between bites to freak everyone out and break the ice with the other bands.

Brian and I took advantage of the last bit of daylight by going rollerblading. As we skated along the shoreline, people exhaled the end of their beach day, shaking sand out of their towels and picking up sunburnt babies from under candy-colored umbrellas. Seagulls surfed the wind while pelicans swooped in the shallows for dinner.

Back in the dressing room, the bands mingled, snatching and opening cold bottled Dos Equis for one another from a frosted, weeping, metal tub. We were so preoccupied, the second band was already 1/2 way through their act when we noticed we were up soon.

The problem with a multi-band bill is you feel like part of a circus.

  • Its hard to know which part of the audience is there for you and which is there for “Interbreader” or “StormRider” or whatever bands you’ve been mismatched with and sandwiched inbetween.
  • Your gear mixes with their gear and you wind up leaving with three extra guitar cables (two that don’t work) and one less mic than you came with.
  • Finally, there’s the end of the night with its inevitable squabble over which band deserves more of “the door” or “the bar” (most promoters will guarantee a band a certain amount $100-$1,000 for a gig and then offer a percentage of the door (the cover charge) or the bar (booze sold). This way, a band is more likely to promote the show and bring in a crowd for the venue). We always walk away from a triple header with the fuzzy end of the lollypop.

By the time we got on stage, the audience looked burnt out and tired of listening to music. I stood before them like a stewardess, trying to sonically tuck my musical pasengers into places I thought they’d feel more comfortable. Children sat diligently upright while parents slouched with crossed arms, daring me to keep their children awake. I wondered if the bands preceding felt their sets were as long as ours.

I raced through intros, invited people to sing along and even abbreviated our set list but still felt I was burdoning the audience and keeping them from their beds. Leaving The Coach House I felt beaten as though I’d been in a race and and not even crossed the finish line.

The cool night air outside brought some relief, and on the 20-mile drive to the hotel, I drifted into a light sleep accompanied by multiple neck pillows and a scratchy army blanket. We arrived on the rounded edges of the morning. As we gathered our suitcases and silently rolled them through the parking lot, the morning light cupped the edges of a starry sky. We fell on top of beds without undressing and leaped into dreams with relief and gratitude.

Los Angeles, CA – “LaLaLand” – The Santa Monica Pier & Luna Park – July 1, 1999

A cold ocean breeze slapped at our exposed skin. It snuck up to tickle our armpits and poke us through holes in our sweaters. We clasped our hands around our chests and shivered into it like musical warriors. The Santa Monica Pier pointed out to sea like a skeleton’s hand and I wondered how July ever consented to such a cold opening day.

Heather, Kenny’s wife, hovered nervously at the entrance of the pier. She’d come to LA to celebrate a long-overdue honeymoon, four years after tying the knot. Heather, terrified of the ocean and unaware that our gig was set on a pier, paced back and forth near the parking lot in a beige hoodie and blue jeans until Kenny slipped her a little something to calm her nerves. Then she began to move slowly, like a tentative fawn, with us towards the inky waters.

Rising defiantly amidst the flashing lights and carnival tunes of the amusement park, the plywood stage stood like a rebellious middle finger in a sea of frivolity. Our set was over before we could blink – a five-song opening gig for a headliner we’d never heard of. Three thousand people were packed onto the pier for the show, all looking up at us from beach towels and blankets splayed on the hard splinter-heavy dock.

Despite the cold, packed, pier, I could easily pick out familiar faces of my friends. Kevin Nealon, the actor and comedian, had graciously agreed to be our LA roadie and stood tall and handsome off stage left making us laugh with his poor miming skills. I was grateful for the distraction. I felt like a fish out of water in this carnival environment.

We barely had a moment to catch our breath after our set before racing through the neon-lit streets toward Hollywood for our second gig at Luna Park. Madonna was hosting a private wrap party for her latest movie in the upper section of the club. As we pushed our gear through the crammed parking lot, we watched clusters of girls in towering hair and body glitter, accompany shirtless boys in chaps and oiled chests. They strutted to an internal soundtrack clearly playing Madonna on repeat.

Photo by Peter Thomas on Unsplash

Compared to the alienating scene at The Santa Monica Pier, Luna Park felt as intimate as my own living room. The show was as effortless and comfortable as wearing pajamas–even with famous faces like James Gandolfini and Dawn Wells in attendance. We took requests and shared plenty of laughs, often disclaiming, “We’ve never played this song before….”

At midnight, Madonna invited us to her soiree upstairs. Someone puked on Moby and we had to load her up carefully so as to avoid getting the “accident” on us. As the July moon bloomed over the parking lot I admitted to myself and to my band that I was too tired to party–The electricity of LA really takes it out of me—and so I left the boys to whoop it up on Madonna’s tab and drove back to the hometel on my own.

I’m glad to be headed up the coast tomorrow.

San Diego, CA – “Life is Good” – Java Joe’s – June 30, 1999

Man, it is GOOOOOOD to be back out on the road!!!!!

My time at home was punctuated by days of stainless, blissful sleep followed by days of relentless errands geared toward getting us back on the road. My “to-do” list included things like:

  • Order CDs
  • Check-up for the van
  • Check-up for myself
  • Pick up new press pictures
  • Fill CD orders
  • Send press kits to news outlets
  • Confirm upcoming gigs
  • Book hotel rooms
  • Phone interviews and
  • Repack.

Driving into San Diego, the sun was a ripe melon in the cloudless sky. At a rest stop, I opened the San Diego Tribune to an interview I gave George Varga a week ago to promote the gig tonight. It was a flattering piece with the headline; “Taylor asserts her independence and her captivating voice.” But I averted my eyes from the accompanying photo.

On my second night home, I’d proudly shown my new 8X10s to Kipp, my boyfriend, and his immediate response was, “I HATE IT!” For the next 3 days, it was all he could talk about—how much he hated my choice of publicity photo, how awful the image was, How everyone he’d shown it to, hated it also, and how strongly he felt it should never see the light of day. “Everyone will make fun of you,” he said as I defended myself, enunciating each word as if speaking to a toddler. When I showed up in tears to my publicist’s kitschy office, decorated in arcade games and 80’s lunch pails, Ariel’s response was both motherly and realistic. “Don’t listen to Kipp,” she said, “The shot is beautiful. It’s too late anyway, we’ve already sent thousands to press.” As more tears fell out of my face she held my head to her belly. “Honestly Sal, It’s so natural and unpretentious. I love it.”

*Continued Below

I love it too. The image is of me leaning up against a fence on Martha’s Vineyard. My mom’s miniature donkey, Ike, is in the background hee-hawing uncontrollably and I’m leaning forward in a moment of sincere, unadulterated, authentic laughter. When I saw the image I thought, this is who I am. This is who I want to be on stage. This is me when no one is looking and when I told Kipp in a last attempt to convince him I’d made a wise choice he said, “And it should continue to be you—as long as no one’s looking.” And that was the final straw. I got up from the table, kicked my fancy white heels into someone’s lawn off Spruce Street and walked home alone.

Now, looking at the article, I wondered if I’d been wrong and if Kipp had been right. Was the image embarrassing? and if I saw my authentic self in it, was I embarrassing too? I put the rag and the image away and out of mind. There’s no room for fear, or second-guessing or self-pity on the road. Out here, you’ve got to be teflon or your ego will eat you alive.

When we arrived at Java Joe’s we were greeted by our opener Gregory Page, who turned out to be an absolutely fabulous musician with a vest and a gote. Java Joe’s is a coffee house (no surprises there). It’s located on the southern slope of San Diego in a mellow community called Ocean Beach.
The building Java Joe’s inhabits served some religious purpose long ago. The ceilings arch like gymnasts with back-bending beams and cartwheeling iron candelabras which infuse the halls with yellow, orange, red, and gold light. The reverence-inspiring atmosphere was juxtaposed against the greater Ocean Beach community which was described to me as being “a cool hippie village” but felt haunted.

Gregory Page

A man named Sammy approached as we were settling in. He had a pad and a pen and a funny little cowboy hat on. He stood slanted forward like a solidus and, even with his hat, was no taller than my collarbone. He gave a wide grin before scrawling something in his little pad for me to read.
“Lose your voice?” I asked as he scribbled.

Sammy pointed at a hole in his throat caused by smoking. At first, I was horrified. I could feel a weighted sigh come from that nickel-sized puncture. I tried to grab myself back from shock. I didn’t want him to see my terror lest he realize his own tragedy. So I stood with a tight-lipped smile as a soldier might stand in an optimistic confrontation with a friend whose arm has just been blown off and doesn’t know it yet.

“I lose my voice all the time,” I said; but I always get it back, I thought. He handed me his note. It said, “Life Is Good.” Meeting Sammy made me realize how lucky I am to have a voice to act as a conduit between my heart and my friends.

The gig was magical. The room, which had sounded so empty and echo-y during sound check, was transformed by an abundance of people who came and paid their $8 dollars to soak up our sound and sit near the stage. By the end of the night I was high off Ocean Beach’s vibe, the smell of fresh coffee, and gratitude for meeting good people like Sammy who remind me, “Life Is Good.”