Editor’s note: This is the fourth 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.
Seattle, Day 5, Sept. 21
Even though Seattle’s last musical heyday happened while the JATR guys and I were still playing with Power Rangers, playing in that city still holds a special weight. There’s something encouraging in knowing that some of history’s most recent rock and roll titans have walked those same streets and loaded into some of those clubs. Seattle, even with the inundation of tech folks and widespread gentrification, is still hallowed ground.
The guys took full advantage of the day leading up to the show at High Dive. We went to the Experience Music Project, local guitar shop American Music and then the legal weed store across the street — I think it was called Pot Stop — before heading to the Fremont venue.
Driving in Seattle is a bitch but after a handful of wrong turns we pulled up to the venue and had a couple van beers before loading in. The guys played with Weener (a Ween cover band), and Caveman Ego. Weener was a group of older guys — 40ish — just kind of noodling their way through some covers but they were nice enough. It was the kind of band where it’s safe to assume that at least one of the members is a pretty successful dentist.
Caveman Ego — awesome name, by the way — was a band of, most likely, music students who much more competently noodled their way through some original material. Their set was very pleasant. They all had very nice gear and nice songs and nice clothes and nice symmetrical faces and nice college educations. … OK, now I’m just guessing. Anyway, they weren’t my favorite.
The crowd was sparse, especially for JATR’s opening set, but sparse crowds breed moxie. And the San Jose trio still tore the roof off, writhing around on stage and screaming their songs with the same vigor they do to packed clubs in the Bay Area. To put it simply, and let this be a lesson to all up-and-coming bands who want to tour, they did their fucking job. It’s easy, and even a little trite to say “play the same way to two people as you would to 2,000,” but it’s so necessary. To resist phoning it in to a small crowd takes the concentration of a professional (or a crazy person).
Portland, Day 6, Sept. 22
Portland, or Trash City, U.S.A., as we were calling it by the end of our stay was, well, you can probably tell how it was by the nickname we gave it. We bounced around to different music stores throughout the day before getting to Ash Street Saloon in time for load in. The amount of litter in the streets and overall aggressiveness of the homeless population was surprising, even for three people from San Jose and one from Reno.
They played with Juliet Tango (Aberdeen, Washington), Now Set Fire (Portland) and Dysgenia (Portland). They were all energetic, young bands that, unfortunately, also don’t draw too well in Portland.
We couldn’t find someone to let us sleep on their floor so we left after the show heading for Bend and crashed in the parking lot of Indian Head Casino in Warm Springs, Oregon.
Although the two days weren’t ideal in terms of pay or turnout, the members of Joan and The Rivers, ever optimistic, found many upsides.
“Well, the sound guy (Nick Biscardi of Wild English) was rad and recorded our set and said he wants to play with us next time we come up so we’ve got that, and we got to see all of Seattle. I’d definitely call that a successful trip,” said Eric Smith as we drove out of town.
“Yeah, Seattle is fucking beautiful,” Hickel agreed. It’s that positive outlook that keeps JATR’s future so bright. A band that doesn’t dwell on the negative aspects is the kind that will persevere and focus on being better.
As I write this, I’m in the casino cafe about to hop into their bathroom to clean up and get ready to cruise into Bend. Tonight, the guys play my favorite venue, Volcanic Theatre Pub.
Album of the day: “Catch For Us The Foxes” – Mewithoutyou
“This is one of my favorite albums. I used to put my headphones and play drums to it beginning to end in my room.” – Caleb Dunkle (drums for JATR)