Chico–Friday September 1
We try to leave Portland as early as possible, but as usual, we take much longer than expected. Even waking up at the ghastly hour of 6:00 AM (I played a show with Shee Bee Gees the night before) we don’t hit the road until after 10:30. There’s the dog to be dropped off, food to find, the triple checking of our packing list. Last tour, I held on to the idea of eating well, long after I had crossed over into survival mode, but this time we’re honest: it’s Burgerville for breakfast. I contemplate getting an espresso milkshake—asking if they make them this early–but Nick advises against it. All day I will mourn the ghost of this lost milkshake.
We pull into Chico a bit later than we like, but the headlining band is still 2 hours behind us. As long as there’s someone worse off than us. . . I called before we arrived to apologize for our tardiness and Connie, the wife of the show organizer Jason, offered us a place to stay and went so far as to ask what I like for breakfast.
After we play, someone tells us that he’s been listening to “Le Projet Citron” for the last year, never knowing who sang it. He had assumed that we were covering the song live. He says, “You mean YOU wrote that song? No Way!!”
The last band is the single weirdest band I’ve ever seen. In a good way. A woman who goes by Pixie sings and “plays” a lamp hung with windchimes. While accompanied by guitar, she holds her ears and writhes around. It’s spooky, made even spookier by her truly incredible voice.
Outside of the venue I notice they too are in a normal car—theirs an eighties-era Chevy Nova which is smashed in the back. Steve the guitarist says they got rear-ended on the highway. A car was barreling up behind them and Steve tried to pull aside but the car smashed him anyway. Now, two months into a four month tour, they have no way to open the hatchback. They load their heavy gear into the backseat over the folded-down front seat. “Were they drunk?” I ask. “More like on acid,” Steve says. “Or both—drunk and on acid.” Pixie says, “Yeah, that’s like the military.” She pauses. “Just like a lizard.”
We all end up staying at Jason and Connie’s even though Jason and Connie are trying to get to San Francisco early the next day. I am once again reminded of the unreasonableness of this lifestyle. These are hard-working people who just want to take a quick vacation, and yet they are kept up and crowded by four freaks sprawled on their living room floor, overrunning their bathroom, raiding their food. Back at the venue, I had spoken with a woman Renee who had hosted our last show in Chico, at her record store. Recently, she finally closed the store after years of crushing bills. She was spending a couple thousand a month to keep it open. She’d work a day job and then go to the store and host shows until three in the morning, then get up and do it all again. Her subsistence was bulk bags of beans and rice. And she wasn’t complaining—in fact, she’s just resting so she can dive back in. She loves music that much.