On the Road 3: Travel-day tests between Chico, Seattle

Joan and the Rivers

Joan and the Rivers do Shasta Lake on the way to Seattle.
Spencer Kilpatrick / Tahoe Onstage

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series. 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.

It’s the downtime that can be killer. It can be easy to forget that almost all of a band’s time on the road is spent not doing what they set out to do: play shows. An average set time for an up and coming band is about 45 minutes to an hour, that leaves a lot of damn time to just be hanging out; a lot of van time, a lot of time waiting around at venues, and a lot of time to roll perceived slights around in your head for hours on end.

Driving days in particular can take a toll because they remove that powerful 45 minutes of action. It can get easier and easier to lose sight of your purpose; of the fact that you’re in pursuit of something important.

Joan and the Rivers

Rock art: Joan and the Rivers were here.

Playing shows is such a minuscule portion of touring that if relationships aren’t strong between members on a personal level, traveling can kill the band. Luckily, the members of Joan And The Rivers seem to be even better friends than they are bandmates. Having known each other for almost 15 years, the trio is more than familiar with how to navigate each other’s nerves. Disagreements about where to eat, what route to take, etc., roll off their backs and tension never finds its way onto the stage.

We took Monday and Tuesday off because: 1. Those are usually rough days for shows anyway and, 2. The guys could take their time traveling from Chico to Seattle for their show tonight.

Our trip went like this:

  • Stopped at Shasta Lake. Mike Hickel (bass/vocals) and Caleb Dunkle (drums) went swimming. Eric Smith (guitar/vocals) stayed on the beach.
  • Stopped in Weed, California, to “get a bunch of stuff that says ‘Weed’ on it,” Eric joked as we pulled into town but after looking through a couple stores, that’s exactly what they did.
  • Stopped in Grants Pass, Oregon, to have a beer at G-Street Bar and Grill, a spot my band Failure Machine plays regularly.
  • Arrived in Eugene, Oregon, and snagged some food, beer and a motel room. We drank and Mike entertained us with stories about work, girlfriends, and how he joined the band. “Eric, Caleb and Caleb’s roommate were jamming and Eric recorded a song and showed it to me and I immediately just said ‘Yeah, I wanna be a part of that,’ so I went over to their house and played with them and in my head I was in right away,” he said with a laugh, “but I guess they uhhhh weren’t so sure. But here we are now.’ ”
  • We left the motel around 11 and headed straight for Seattle. On our way, a friend let me know about a taping for “Band In Seattle,” a TV show that presents local and touring bands performing live. The bands for the night were He Whose Ox Is Gored and Seattle-based two piece Hobosexual. Hobosexual, in particular, was terrific, guitarist/vocalist Ben Harwood ran his guitar through three amps with three distinct tones. The result was powerful. Their straight-ahead rock and roll songwriting was only bolstered by the sonic power of their instrumentation and gear.
  • We left the show and crashed at a friend’s house in Capitol Hill.

And through all of this, there were no passive-aggressive comments or pouty attitudes. The guys just, well, hung out. And the tour goes on. Seattle tonight, Portland tomorrow.

Related stories:
On the Road 1: Writer tags along with Joan and the Rivers. LINK
On the Road 2: Rockin’ the house in Chico. LINK

Joan and the Rivers

Being friends for 15 years makes it easier to navigate the nerves on the road.

Royal with Cheetos Chicken Fries: Mike Hickel.

Royal with Cheetos Chicken Fries: Mike Hickel.

About Spencer Kilpatrick

Author Spencer Kilpatrick graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in English. He hates the Lakers and his top three emcees are Blu, Earl Sweatshirt and Nas.

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