Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final in a series. Tahoe Onstage writer Spencer Kilpatrick hit the road with San Jose-based rock trio Joan and The Rivers for a weeklong jaunt through Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.
Bend, Oregon, Day 7, Sept. 22
On the surface, Bend is the LaCroix Sparkling Water of towns. With its scenic landscape, quaint downtown and friendly community, it feels like it must have a music scene filled with lovably bad cover bands and cute singer-songwriters, but nothing has been further from my experience.
I’ve been lucky enough to play Volcanic Theatre Pub nearly 10 times with some of the best bands, both local and touring, that I’ve ever seen, so I was excited to get back into town with the Joan and the Rivers guys. We picked up Jon Burr, drummer for local group Bravey Don, on our way into town, and he was essentially our tour guide for the rest of the day.
Recycled Music was our first stop and the lone employee in the store, Dean, was quick to ask if we were a band. In no time, he was playing JATR’s latest EP “Love Bumps” over the store sound system.
Then we went to a park to throw the football around and relax for a bit before grabbing some food at Super Burrito and then heading to the venue. After some downtime and a few beers in the parking lot, the sound guy arrived.
We’d found out a couple of days earlier that the local band Gonzo had dropped off the bill so it would be just JATR and another touring group from Seattle called Prophets Of Addiction, a group of worse-for-wear 40-somethings that dressed exactly like Motley Crue and sounded exactly like, well, Motley Crue. They were actually pretty good considering what they were going for.
The turnout was bad and the pay was worse but we managed to sell a few shirts and find a place to crash (thanks Paterson, drums for Strange Rover) so we were feeling pretty great going into the last day of the run.
Reno, Day 8
The drive from Bend to Reno took about seven hours with a couple stops and we pulled into town around 4 p.m. As we got into the car, spirits were noticeably high, “This is the earliest I’ve woken up all tour and it’s the best I’ve felt,” Smith noted.
I could relate. I was happy to be getting back home but more excited for the bill that we were playing that night.
When JATR asked me to help them plan the tour, I was most interested in putting together a lineup for their Reno stop. My band Failure Machine draws well enough in Reno that we can dump a lot of out-of-town bands on one bill and still make sure everyone gets paid and plays to a good crowd. It’s an effective way to show touring groups that Reno isn’t just a viable stop on a Wednesday or Thursday night but a must-hit city with an incredible collection of bands and musicians — especially considering its size. It’s also beneficial for other Reno bands because the more out-of-towners we get talking about how great our scene is, the more bands will stop through, and the more bands that stop through, the more local groups will be able to make connections and hit the road themselves. It’s all a matter of getting people in touch.
Shortly after we arrived in Reno, Chico’s BandMaster Ruckus and Oakland’s Van Goat did the same. The Failure Machine crew wasn’t far behind and the 14 or so of us swapped stories and had a few beers before heading to The Loving Cup.
Set up and line-checks went smoothly all night as band after band did what they do best to a packed house. Van Goat kicked things off with its quirky high-energy brand of soulful dance music. BandMaster Ruckus followed suit with a blasts of Black Keys-esque blues rock. Then JATR took over and the work they had been putting in for the last week shone through. They were tight and raucous; a barreling train of go-fuck-yourself rock and roll. Each act was the best band I’d ever seen and the crowd stayed rapt during their sets, saving their smoke breaks for tear-down.
Failure Machine’s set was a disaster that featured a revolving door of guest musicians that only kind of knew the songs, a trumpet player that got too drunk to play, and a beer-soaked, out-of-tune singalong to close out the night. So basically just a Failure Machine show.
We stayed at The Cup for a little longer before heading back to the house for more beer and some Roberto’s. The night consisted of drunken plans being made for more shows, splits, and tours as well as slurred compliments for every member of every band.
Although there were some rough shows on JATR’s first tour I was struck by the poise they showed through it all. As I write this, they’re already booking their next run and discussing how to avoid past booking mistakes. If Joan and the Rivers’ focus, dedication and sheer talent mean anything at all, this band has a lot more to give and, thanks to this little bit of experience, a better idea of how to give it.
- Album of the day – “Toxicity” by System Of A Down
“Yeah, I remember one time Caleb came home and put this on and Mike knew, like, every fuckin word.”- Eric Smith- guitar/vocals