Editor’s note: Tahoe Onstage writer Spencer Kilpatrick has hit the road with San Jose-based rock trio Joan and The Rivers for a weeklong jaunt through Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. He’ll be poaching WiFi from coffee shops, green rooms and rest stops to post updates on the tour — for better or worse.
One of the most difficult parts of being on tour is constantly having to rely on other people, whether it’s your bandmates to not get too loaded before the show, your friends in other cities to show up, or your distant relatives to let you crash on their floor. Touring can quickly become a series of asking for favors. And that’s fine. Favors are instrumental in the realization that we, as musicians and bands, are all in this together.
The amount of community behind even the smallest touring group is monumental and it’s endlessly important to know that whether you’re on the road or playing with a band that is, this shit is bigger than you.
The members of Joan and The Rivers from San Jose have been helping touring bands get places to stay and venues to play in the Bay Area for the better part of the last four years. Friday, they cruised to Reno for night one of their first weeklong tour. As a fan of their music and work ethic for the last few years, I didn’t hesitate when they asked me to join them for the trip.
Saturday, we pulled into Sacramento to play Naked Lounge with local groups Vinnie Guidera and Mallard as well as San Francisco two-piece The Brankas. Guidera and The Brankas put on terrific sets and watched JATR with members of Sacramento groups Pandoval and The Kelps. The crowd, while small, was lively but it was noticeable that Mallard, the headliner, didn’t bring anyone. And that’s fine, too. Every band has nights where things just don’t go their way, their friends don’t show and they have to play to a nearly empty bar. But the members of Mallard took it one step further and didn’t even watch the openers themselves; they sat outside the venue talking and smoking cigarettes. That’s not fine. That’s bullshit.
When you notice that you, as the local group on the bill, didn’t draw well, watching the opening bands isn’t just a matter of professionalism, it’s common courtesy. When we did finally see a member of Mallard it was to ask JATR if they could borrow their drumkit. It’s not just bad for that bill on that night, it’s a bad look for your scene as a whole. Musicians talk a lot, mostly about what bands, venues and cities are worth touring with/though. A shitty Saturday in Sacramento quickly becomes a reason to schedule that spot on Wednesday for the next run, if at all.
We crashed at Dino DiMare’s (vocals/guitar for Pandoval) and Cameron Betts’ (vocals/guitar for The Kelps/Eugene Ugly/Pandoval) house in Citrus Heights. Beer was drunk, shit was talked, guitars and weed were passed around freely. Despite the show’s poor turnout, spirits were high and musicians were quick to swap compliments.
“The Brankas are my favorite band,” said Eric Smith (vocals/guitar for JATR) in a conversation with Betts.
“They’re a perfect band.” Betts agreed.
The night devolved into a blur of booze and tunes but we when we woke up, we thanked Dino and Cameron, swung through a McDonald’s, and cruised to Chico, where we’ll be relying on BandMaster Ruckus to draw, their singer to put us up in his house, and each other to make necessary beer runs throughout the night.