Tour Diary Part 2
Down the coast we go
Saturday, August 6th
A quiet morning at home doing home-things — feeding chickens, cleaning dishes, getting laundry finished up — and I’m off to the Edgefield in Troutdale, just off I-84 on the Columbia River. I couldn’t say how many times we’ve played this venue, but I know we haven’t played really anywhere else in thePortland area, aside from a few one-offs and livestreams and things, since maybe 2008. Can that be right? There’s an easy way to find these things out, tethered as I am to the internet, but, to quote Morrissey, “I. Still. Cannot. Speak. French. I. Am. Very. Lazy.”
They’ve done up the backstage a bit since last we were here; there are rustic-looking planks siding the trailers now and a guy tending a tea-and-CBD-oils bar in a picturesque little grotto. Time was, it was like a construction site backstage. How time has flown. I’m immediately recalled to the *last* time we were here, when my voice was shot and I was all hopped up on steroids, trying to get through the second of a two-night run. Not a pleasant memory. So it was nice to feel in full health, if still a little voice-tired from the previous few nights’ exertions.
It’s very hot, and soundcheck is in full sunlight. My acoustic lines are all making a buzzing noise every time John hits the kick drum, so we’re cut a little short as Maureen & crew troubleshoot the rig. Turns out it’s John’s Butt Kicker; once that is bypassed, all is well. We’re doing these VIP “pre-show parties” on this run, as we have on the last few tours, and they actually tend to a be real highlight of the day. We play a couple requests from the audience and answer some questions. It’s a nice time to interact with fans and kick off the dust on some deep cuts.
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The show is a joy. One of the best in memory. The one downside to playing at Edgefield is that you have to go on at a very un-rock ‘n’ roll hour: 7:30 pm. So it’s daylight as we take the stage, and all those fancy lights and fog and things have to go unused till the sun sets, which isn’t till the set is almost over. But the crowd is lovely and the day cools off and I remember to take my in-ear monitors out as everyone sings “Hear all the bombs fade away” in “Sons and Daughters” and it’s a revelatory moment, one I haven’t felt in such a long time. We play “The Island” in the set as well, which feels a bit rusty, particularly in that modulation between the Am and the Dm in “The Landlord’s Daughter” bit, but we manage it without the wheels falling off too much.
It’s a blessing to get two nights at home — tomorrow is a day off — and I head home filled and fall immediately to sleep.
Sunday, August 7th
Portland (Day off)
Rather than risk the Covid petrie dish of an airport, the band opts to ride overnight from Portland to Saratoga, CA, and I spend the day finishing some laundry at home and hanging with Carson and the boys. We dive in and out of the inflatable pool we’ve put up in the yard; Milo practices his belly flops. After dinner, Carson drives me to the Target parking lot, where the bus meets me. John and Funk go in to buy Salisbury steak TV dinners for a weird late night snack; I get some floss and a new water bottle. And then we’re off to California, a twelve-ish hour drive. I finish watching 63 Up, the latest (and last?) installment in Michael Apted’s Up saga, and fall into a sorta kinda sleep.
Saturday, August 8th
For those who have never had the pleasure of riding overnight on a tour bus, the best way to describe the quality of sleep one gets is as “a series of naps.” It’s not ideal. You get into the swing of it eventually, but for the first week or so it can be a rough go. We soldier on nonetheless.
The Mountain Winery is everything it purports to be on the tin: it’s a winery on a mountain. It overlooks some pleasant-lookin, Eucalyptus tree-lined suburb of San Francisco that I could not — and cannot still — be bothered to identify. Saratoga itself, maybe? San Jose? There’s literally no way of knowing. A golf cart gives us a hair-raising ride from the bus to the venue.
The day is mostly unremarkable. The shower is a 6.5; we have fallen from the heights of our shower in Seattle at the Marymoor. Will we ever achieve such greatness again? We eat outside on a veranda overlooking the bowl of the venue. I should describe it: it’s an amphitheater looking down on some kind of 19th century abbey-looking building. It’s truly picturesque. We crack open Pandemic Legacy Season 0 and play the prologue after lunch.
The stage is small and close to the ground and we all have to squash on to it for soundcheck. We learn that Olivia Newton John has died and we briefly toss around song ideas for some kind of tribute. Xanadu? Magic? Turns out they have lots of chords in them, both of these songs. Too many chords. We’ll wing it, we decide.
At showtime, the air is cool and smells like eucalyptus. We play a version of the set that opens with “Leslie Ann Levine.” “Hazards of Love 2” is inserted in the set, something I don’t know that we’ve ever played outside of playing the whole record, followed by “Crane Wife 1,” divorced from its partner, “Crane Wife 2,” — again, another first. We debut a new song, “Burial Ground,” and we manage it well enough. It’ll get better, I think.
Turns out Matt Leacock, designer of Pandemic, is at the show. What serendipity! A blessing on the tour, if ever there was one. Another hair-raising golf cart ride back to the bus, this time in the dark, overlooking suburban Bay Area city TBD, and I’m snug in my bunk, watching Civilization for probably, I don’t know, five minutes, before I crash out. Onward to Los Angeles!