Boulder, CO – “Band-o-Babes” – The Fox Theater- April 22, 1999

Last night, a dozen badass babes stormed the stage at The Fox Theater for “The Women From Mars,” CD release party. Each of us had contributed a song to the compilation going on sale that night. Proceeds would go to fighting breast cancer and MS.

The song I contributed to the Women From Mars CD

“The Women from Mars” is a composite of Boulder-based-musician-babes who got sick being ships in the night due to hectic touring schedules and booked a monthly gig in town to support and inspire one another (and howl at the moon). No matter where we are in our travels, we do our best to make it back for these gigs (all of which support breast cancer awareness and prevention)

I met up with my songstress sisters early on the morning of the gig for a group radio interview at KCNU. A dusting of winter white covered crocus and daffodils. Snow in April is just one of the strange little quirks of living in Colorado. I cradled my unswaddled guitar to my chest attempting to keep my baby from going out of tune in the cold between car and station. Inside the lobby, Libby Kirkpatrick greeted me with warm coffee and praise for my song on the CD, “and I’m picky,” she added. Her soft brown curls threatened to spring like kamikaze pilots from her head. Moved by her sincere words, I felt a rush of gratitude.

As our estrogen rich collective filled the halls drinking coffee and laughing over road tales, Libby suggested I teach the other girls backups to my “Red Room.” I felt honored by their willingness to lend their voices to lifting MY music onto the airwaves. With my orange bunny hat in hand, the morning’s joy set the stage for the upcoming show.

Backstage, downstairs, in the blue lights of the green room, we primped, trying on wigs, high-top tube socks, tiaras and taffeta tutus. We bartered in horror stories from our travels and consoled each other’s laments and losses. We learned each other’s songs, going two and three at a time into the dimly lit bathroom with guitars to rehearse harmonies without disturbing the camaraderie of our sisters outside.

The stage was lit up with candles and feather boas, guitars and a smattering of percussion instruments shaped like exotic fruit. The audience’s faces were glowing and adoring and supportive. The lineup was: Beth Quist, Maya Dorn, Jude Ponds, Nicole Jamrose, Marie Beer, Monica Augustine, Wendy Woo, Libby Kirkpatrick, Me, Maggie Simpson and Hannah Alkire.

Each Woman took the spotlight for a short set while the rest of us watched from the stairwell in admiration. The night went off without a hitch. All the ladies joined me for “Happy Now” and as our voices braided into one siren call, I thought how lucky I am to have such remarkable, beautiful and talented female friends. Friends, strong enough to support one another’s talent rather than see it as competition to try to tare down.

The snow, which had turned to rain, was pounding and cold when we loaded our instruments into the back alley around 3 a.m. I was buzzing as I kissed and hugged my tribe goodbye and drove home. When I walked in my front door, the electricity blew, leaving me to strip out of wet, clinging clothes in the dark. As I did so, I wondered suspiciously if my inner voltage had caused the blackout.

I don’t think I’ve ever slept so well.

Boulder, CO – “I Miss The Road” – April 4, 1999

Perhaps it was naive to expect that I could catapult myself a thousand miles away, sing in front of hundreds, grow accustomed to strangers and strange beds, cope with peeing in cups and between cars, and return home unchanged.

Now I am depressed, mourning the person I was just over a month ago. I’m left curious about who I am now and what that will mean for my existing relationships. Kipp wants me to move in with him. That seems unwise and unlikely.

My bedroom at 6th and Pine in Boulder

I feel hollow. It’s Easter and I imagine my mom, at home on Martha’s Vineyard, hiding easter eggs and crying that Ben and I are on separate tours and not there to find them. The soft pink carpet under my feet feels like luxurious, alien moss as I wander to and from the bathroom. For the past four days at home, this has been the extent of my travels; my daily commute. I’ve been trying to find my land legs, but I’m trapped in a flannel cocoon, unable to lift my aluminum blinds to discern day from night. I find myself unable to return phone calls—even to close friends—much less meet up for coffee.

I guess I miss the road. I long for the novelty of waking up in a different hotel room each morning, the freedom to not make my bed. I yearn for midnight diners, shared laughter with Nisa in dimly lit green rooms, and gas station breakfasts. I miss the thrill of stage lights, the sensation of eyes upon me as I pour out a song, the intimate act of signing CDs, arms, and guitars. I miss the camaraderie of new friends, a cold beer on stage, the buzz of neon lights, and even the stench of Clorox battling the backdrop of smoke, spirits, spilled guts, and bad tunes. I miss the open road.  I miss my band.

My heart is heavy and my head is full of these soporific thoughts as I commute through alien moss from the bathroom back to my flannel haven.

Crested Butte, CO – “Goodnight Road” – Performing Arts Center – March 31, 1999

It’s nice to be back in the dry fresh Colorado mountain air.  We arrived in Crested Butte late Tuesday after a 15-hour drive. I (wo)manned the wheel most of the day, stopping at different super-duper-uber-markets for deli meats and bread so “Chef Brian” could make us all sandwiches on our makeshift Igloo countertop.

Photo by Sand Crain

At a rest stop in Moab, we stretched our legs and marveled at the vastness between canyon walls.  The rich red, rock formations looked Dr. Seuss drawn and contrasted against the vivid blue desert sky. Nisa drove when night fell because, despite the illumination from an almost full moon, I am mostly night blind.

We crashed haphazardly and fully clothed on our friend’s, Ernesto & Dave’s, couches, futons and floors only to be woken up by their dogs at 6 am.

It snowed all day.  The white whisper, a welcome guest as Crested Butte’s slopes have been devoid of snow.  The excitement around town was palpable.  Rad-sters and dude-sters lugged snowboards to work with them.  They slung skins and ski poles over their shoulders and packed knee pads alongside their wishful thinking.

The band grabbed coffee and some soggy eggs from a grumpy waitress on the main drag.   Rejuvenated, I taught a little yoga class for the boys back at the house, dodging Ernesto’s pups who considered downward dogs an invitation for kissing.  I am going to take a little credit here… I introduced my band to yoga at the beginning of this trip and their flexibility is greatly improved.  Brian Mcrae can even touch his toes now!

If I’d considered the day cold, the nighttime was bitter.  Both instruments and vocal cords took extra warming up to stay in tune.  The Crested Butte Performing Art Center is one of my favorite places to play. It’s a 250-seated theater with decadent on-stage carpeting and great acoustics.

The show was celebratory, considering it was our last for a while. Eager to return home, we galloped like restless horses through the performance. Now, finally at home and exhausted, I plan to immerse myself in sleep for a good five days.

Goodnight moon.

Goodnight mic stand.

Goodnight boys in the band.

Goodnight van.

Goodnight road and songs we played.

Goodnight friends made along the way.

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 – “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 – “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.”

Aspen, CO – “Post-Gig Gifts” -The Howlin’ Wolf – December 29, 1998

We’ve played The Howling Wolf two nights in a row.

My audience is so generous.  People shower me with unmerited gifts after shows.  Some give me pot, some mushrooms, some validation, some drunken hugs, and sometimes someone gives me pieces of myself I thought I’d lost for good or didn’t even know to miss.  Sometimes it’s a photograph or the recollection of a summer day our paths crossed at a county fair.  These are the most precious of post-gig gifts. The true benefit of celebrity affiliation is that people collect pieces of your life you didn’t know to make precious in the moment. Here are a few such gifts.

Vail, CO – “Pre-Famous Faces” – Garton’s – December 21, 1998

On Garton’s walls, hang pictures of bands playing on its stage before they were famous.  A barely recognizable 23-year-old Sheryl Crow with what looks like a blond poodle glued to her head rocks out from an unpresumptuous black frame.  A framed, faded press clipping reads “Dave Matthews Band plays Gatrton’s,” and shows what looks like a picture of a glorified high school garageband.  There are many other impressive pre-famous faces entombed in glass and unimpressive frames bolted to Garton’s walls.  I felt grateful to be among such a crew of musicians.

The show was a huge success.   I managed to sell 40 CDs! and finally (phew) made a profit ($100 bucks) on a gig alone. 

The band stayed up late, long past closing time. Long after the audience had gone home and the bolts on the doors had bit their mechanical locks. With the staff and bartenders we drank wine and played pool and a handsome guy named Dax from LA flirted with me and I let him. When we left the club at 3:00, Dax carried my guitar down to the van to say goodnight. He kissed me a little goodbye too.

The band condo was a refrigerator with beige rugs to hide beige stains and cigarette burns.  Out of three rooms, I got the one with the king-size bed.  With an unexpected 5th wave of energy, we gathered out in the living room, perched on the arms of tweed couches and rummaged through plastic swag bags generously left for us from the staff at Garton’s.  We traded each other chocolates for granola bars and Advil for Dentine. I found a pair of black sweatpants in the closet and put them on.  It was cold and I didn’t care whose they were.  We fell asleep one step ahead of the sun. The next afternoon, on our way back to Boulder, the boys bought me floor mats for Moby for Christmas.  They’re the best.

Boulder, CO – “My Stomach Aches for my Mama” – December 17, 1998

I’m feeling sick to my stomach.  Perhaps it’s because of the severe intestinal flu that sent me to the ER for an anti-nausea IV in the middle of the night on Monday.  More likely it’s from the confounding questions my new booking agent, Cassy Burbeck needs answers to before he can start booking a national tour for me.  Casey wants to know: What’s my budget? What’s on my rider? Who’s in my band? What is my stage plot (what even is a stage plot?) Will we be ready in time for the Lillith Fair?  Where do I see myself in 6 months?  A year?  A decade?  I can’t imagine where I’ll be in 6 days let alone 6 months.  But I need a booking agent.  Booking myself is just the pits!  Venues stiff me and won’t call back to confirm the show beforehand.  Having booked my shows for three months now, I know exactly how much I’d pay not to have to do this job anymore, and when Casey says the going rate for agents is 10% of all gigs, that seems more than fair to me.

But my stomach still hurts, even after reconciling with my choice to hire Casey and answer all his scary questions and when I ask my stomach to tell me what’s at the root of its dis-ease an image pops up in my mind of my mama.  Earlier in the week, she was driving in her car, just minding her own business and was delighted when one of her songs came on the radio.  As she retold the story to me later in the evening on the phone, I imagined her bopping along to “You’re so Vain,” or “Jesse” or “Coming Around Again” as she threaded her way home, over backroads lined with puckerbrush and winter white slush on Martha’s Vineyard. 

At the end of her song, the DJ took a random caller who said “I saw Carly Simon at the anti-impeachment rally the other day and she looked awful.  I tell ya, I used to dig her when she was hanging around with James Taylor but she’s gotten OLD man.”  My mama recounted the insouciant caller with a New York accent.

“Yeah, her skin’s all wrinkly.” agreed the DJ.

“I guess that’s what happens when ya get old.” the caller theorized, “Your skin starts fallin’ off the bone.” They both laughed.  My mama cried all day.  I would too.  “It’s not fair mama.” I told her, “You’re sooooo beautiful! You’re timeless. You’re so talented. You’re a legend!” and I thought ‘why am I going into this profession?!?!

As I hung up I just kept telling myself ‘It’ll be OK. The work I’ve done on myself will spare me the worst of my ego’s weaponry down the line.’  But more than anything, I worry about getting hijacked by the spotlight and imprisoned by the applause.  Here are some exercises I promise myself to do to avoid the consequences of my future successes and failures.

  1. I’ll make fun of myself.
  2. I’ll make a point of enjoying other’s successes.
  3. I’ll separate my self-worth from my music’s value to others.
  4. I’ll never be jealous or bitter.
  5. I’ll never do anything just because it’ll “look good,” or “boost my image.”
  6. I’ll believe in everyone I surround myself with.
  7. I’ll stay curious and humble and trust my decisions.
  8. I won’t trust anyone.

I hope it’s enough. I’m sorry mama. It’s not fair. My stomach aches for you.