We had a great time in Milwaukee last night, no surprise. We met a fantastic Couchsurfing couple–Marie and Clinton–who fed us a delicious chicken salad, put us up for the night and came out to see our show at Bremen Cafe. Milwaukee always treats us right. Looking forward to going back soon.
Hey friends! Long time no post. I hope everyone has been enjoying their own version of spring these last few weeks. Bobby and I have been spending our spring in a few different places, the most recent being Nashville, TN. There’s been plenty of moisture around here lately, and even though it’s raining again on our travel day, as I look out my passenger window I see the most vibrant spring green grasses and trees so happy that Bob Ross could have painted them.
We’ve been working in Nashville and staying with family–Bobby’s sister, Kt and her dog, Ranger. The other day Kt and I decided to take a morning hike that ended up turning into an all day adventure.
It started out with an early trip to The Butter Bean Barn, where Kt was riding and working a client’s horse to keep him in shape. His name is Cooper, and he used to be a racehorse.
I’m not particularly well-versed in equestrian knowledge, at least not yet, but apparently racehorses are prone to having psychological issues, especially once they retire and become “pleasure” horses. It can be difficult to, essentially, “un-train” them to be pasture and trail horses and forget their competitive, “run fast and turn left” days. I find that interesting, and though it brings some ethical questions regarding horse-racing to the surface, those are for another blog…
While Kt was working with Cooper, I sat by the fence to watch and take a couple photos. I attracted the attention of a couple curious and hungry friends who apparently thought I might have something for them to eat. No dice, sorry guys. Two old boys, Rascal and Parker, eventually meandered their way over to me, and even though I had nothing to offer besides a good scratch behind the ears, we still made friends.
Ranger–Kt’s big Grey wolf/German Shepherd/floppy-eared/cuddle bug–had come with us, and was (somewhat) patiently waiting in the car while Kt and I played with horses and talked to Nan–the sweet old ranch grandma who makes her way around on a lawn mower. When we left, Ranger was happy we were back in the car with him and he was being included once again.
Our next destination was our hiking trail–a five mile loop called Hidden Springs Trail near Lebanon, TN. It was a good distance away from Nashville, so we were ready to feel away from the city. It was a gorgeous day out, and driving on the backroads thought the country with the windows down was invigorating, and Ranger was loving it too!
At one point we found ourselves following a large utility truck that we couldn’t seem to maneuver around, and suddenly he began to break hard going up a hill and moved over to the left lane. His hazard lights had just come on when we saw the reason he was stopping: seven scrawny, black and white puppies were weaving in and out of the ditch and onto the road, looking for something to eat, I’m sure. We pulled over behind the truck and jumped out to wrangle them all together and get them off the road. The truck driver helped us and as we were talking with him, a man from a nearby house walked up the road to see what was going on, and then Wade, a jogger we had passed on the road earlier, stopped to see if he could help.
At this point, we all knew we couldn’t leave them to fend for themselves; they were too little and wouldn’t last long on their own. But who wants to take seven sick and tic-infested puppies? They appeared to be a Boxer/Terrier mix, but there could’ve been a little Pit-bull in them, and as I found out, on this, my day of animal ethics 101, Pit-bulls are banned in most of parts of Tennessee, which brings more ethical questions to the table. It’s already a sad story that’s way too common–a litter of starving puppies, abandoned on the side of the road and left to their own, greatly limited devices–but to make it even more tragic, trying to “help” them may not be what you would picture in your mind as being “helpful”. If taken to a clinic or shelter in the state of Tennessee, they may be euthanized if it’s suspected they have any Pit-bull in their blood. Plus, if you bring in sick puppies you
can will be expected to pay for their treatment.
The truck driver and the nearby neighbor both decided they would take one, so they snatched up the two healthier males of the litter, wished us luck and went on their way. Now it was up to Wade, Kt and me to decide what to do with the remaining five. Wade knew of a nearby clinic that might be able to help them, but he had no way to get them there. We had a car with a big curious dog in the back and nothing in which to contain the puppies and keep them away from Ranger.
There was a dollar store just up the road, so we decided that Wade would wait with the puppies while Kt and I went to get a box for the pups. When we returned with our blue tote, we gathered them up and got them in the front seat, with Ranger all the way in the back, and me in the middle. Wade gave us directions to the clinic and we were on our way.
Unfortunately the clinic could not help us, and it’s understandable why; they can’t take in all the sick and dying animals that people find and want someone else to help. The costs are too high and there are too many sick/dying animals. This animal-ethics-reality-check was getting pretty depressing for me.
However–a ray of hope–the clinic did have the number of a nearby shelter called Country K-9, that we could contact and see what they could do. We decided to call them, and after explaining the situation, we were told they would try and contact one of their foster people and call us back in a few minutes.
As we stood in the waiting room, waiting, I was starting to feel pretty heartsick, because if we couldn’t find a place that would take these little guys, I had no idea what we were going to do with them. I knew we couldn’t keep them, but I couldn’t imagine dumping them off somewhere and hoping that someone would find them and have the resources to care for them. I was also thinking it was a good thing Bobby wasn’t with us, because I knew he would be trying to bring at least one, if not all of them, back to live happily ever after with us. No joke, folks. All of them.
Finally Country K-9 called us back with good news; they had found someone who would take the puppies–hallelujah!!
Once at the shelter, a flock of middle-aged women came out to hush their excited dogs and take a peek at the new arrivals. We spent about twenty minutes chatting with these wonderful ladies, and they “oohed and ahhed” over Ranger, who didn’t hide his satisfaction with being the center of attention.
And now, if you’ll indulge me a moment while I step up on my soapbox… Country K-9 is the animal shelter that took in these five little starving pups, and they have helped hundreds of other animals recover their health and find homes. Luckily, I happened to be a part of a story with a happy ending, which I am very grateful for, but I’m sure we all realize this isn’t always the case. At the risk of sounding like one of those horribly sad commercials with awful pictures of unhealthy and unhappy animals with droopy, teary eyes–if you can donate anything to them or any animal shelter, I know they could use it and I, personally, would be very grateful to you. I know everybody everywhere needs a little help, but if you’re searching for an organization to devote a little of your time and/or money to, may I suggest your local animal shelter? You can donate to Country K-9 or check out their website by clicking here. Thank you! End soapbox.
At last we were on our way to our Hidden Springs Trail! Having just done our part as good citizens of the world by helping a few helpless creatures, Kt and I were feeling particularly buoyant and joyful. A happy but restless Ranger was smelling the air out of every window he could, alternating driver side and passenger side so as not to miss out anything, of course.
We parked at the trailhead and geared up for our five miles. The trail itself was beautiful, and the time of year was perfect—the undergrowth wasn’t too out of control, the leaves were just approaching their mature size, and the greens were SO GREEN! The weather was partly cloudy and in the low eighties with some humidity, and as I mentioned before, the moisture in the region was abundant so there were a few pesky bugs here and there and more than a few bloody thirsty ticks that were eagerly waiting to catch a ride and a free lunch. Savages!
Despite the lurking parasites, we had an AWESOME hike, and Ranger agreed. We stumbled upon dark caves, discovered beautiful open meadows, and of course, found the hidden springs. Kt and I managed to make it out of the woods without one nasty tick bite, but poor Ranger was not so lucky. He didn’t have it too bad though, and he thoroughly enjoyed all the time and effort that was spent on him as we scoured through his thick, coarse coat, searching for the uninvited.
It was a fantastic day of eye-opening animal adventures, and I’m looking forward to the next one, whenever it comes along.
Saturday night had lasted well into Sunday morning, so when nine bells rang and woke us up, we were a bit bleary-eyed and hung over. But nothing cures a hang over like feasting on Mexican food, so another round of Curra’s Grill was ordered, devoured, and it’s medicinal qualities absorbed. Thank you Jorge! Curra’s Grill is always a good idea.
We two shows that Sunday, both of them short 45 minute sets. The first show was that afternoon at a little coffee place called, Flipnotics. We had been to Flipnotics before during one of our trips to Austin, and we thought it would be a great place to play, plus we had our drummer Joel and our steel player Thomas with us, so we were feeling good and ready to knock some socks off.
If you can recall back a few blogs, I mentioned our friends from Amarillo, TX who were in town for SXSW–Turbine Toolshed; we had run into them at our show at Bar Mirabeau, saw them perform at Mozart’s Coffee Roasters, bumped into them on the street on our way to see Ghostwolf, and then they showed up at Flipnotics that Sunday afternoon to see our show. It is so much fun making friends on the road–I love it!
The show went incredibly well, and I loved the sound of the room. By this time we had played with Thomas and Joel a number of times and had spent a few days together, so the energy and communication between us was great. The room was smaller in size, and it filled up with bodies as our show went on. Even our Couchsurfing host, Walter, was in attendance and acting as our back up sound guy. (We had a few minor difficulties, but Walter used to be a sound guy/roadie, so it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.)
Besides an intrusive fly landing in my ice tea, the show was a blast, and I remember being energized when it was over. Lots of great people and energy (and a couple flies) were buzzing and bouncing around the room, and we made a bunch of friends that day. Speaking of friends, our buddy from Turbine Toolshed, Eddie, posted this video of us performing Days Gone By…check it out! Thanks Eddie!
Later that afternoon we were in for a great surprise! My good friend from college, Julie–now all grown up and married and living the dream–was in town with her husband. They were coming through Austin on a tour of their own and were stopping on Sunday for the last day of the festival. We decided to meet downtown and catch up over a beer or two. Bobby and I met Julie and Andrew at Bar Louie, and spent a couple hours talking shop. Julie and Andrew have their own band, Har-di-Har, out of Cedar Falls, Iowa and they have some fantastic stuff! I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing them live yet, but check out their website; they have some great stuff going on and I couldn’t be happier for their success!
Our final show for the day and the SXSW festival, was at an ancient bar called Red Eyed Fly. This bar has been around for decades; you can tell just by walking inside that if these walls could talk, they’d have some pretty interesting stories to tell. In fact, Bobby spotted a picture above the bar of Dimebag Darrell–former guitarist for Pantera–performing on the stage we were about to take. We asked the bartender and he confirmed this, which sent Bobby’s head reeling. Dimebag Darrell as I’ve mentioned in the past, is one of Bobby’s heroes, so performing our music on the same stage that a young Dimebag Darrell performed on, is a pretty cool experience…more so for Bobby since Pantera was never really my cup of tea, but still…
So in honor of Bobby’s deceased guitar idol, we tore it up! Or as much as we could without a drummer. We had our buddy Thomas on pedal steel with us, and Julie and Andrew came down to see us perform. The show was a lot of fun, and before I knew it our set time was up and the “curtain came down,” as they say.
We’re already looking forward to next year’s festival, and can’t wait to keep adding more to our sound. Thank you for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed the series, and as always, and keep shining!
Saturday. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say, it was another beautiful day. The gods of SXSW were smiling on all of us and granted an entire week of sunny, gorgeous days and dry, warm nights. We slept in on Saturday like we did most days that week, since nothing began until noon at the earliest, especially in a festival town full of musicians.
We had one show that afternoon, back at Bar Mirabeau–the same venue we had played on Thursday afternoon with much success. The staff we now considered new friends of ours, and they were all smiles when we walked back through the door; and who doesn’t love to see a smiling face?
We also saw/heard, as we walked out onto the patio with our gear in hand, one of the strangest acts I have ever seen. For propriety’s sake, and out of respect for fellow musicians I’ll omit the band name–mostly because I can’t remember it and also because I’m not entirely certain they considered themselves an organized “band” with a name in the first place. Three musicians were on stage; a woman playing keyboard and singing, another woman seated on the ground with a microphone, and a man in the back on an electric drum set. I don’t need to go into detail, but lets just say, if they rehearsed together, it wasn’t obvious, and though each of them seemed to be giving it their all, when I looked around to see how they were being received I only saw bewilderment and/or disinterest, and maybe a little bit of what I’ve read described as “contact embarrassment”. (Interesting tidbit: the English language does not have a word for the experience of feeling embarrassed for someone else. Hmm. We should get on that. Any suggestions?) The cherry on top was when they covered, “Love Song”, by Sara Bareilles. I hope I’m not coming across as a snob, though I might be acting like it a bit; but honestly, you can’t like everything you hear, and this was just…kinda…terrible.
I might also be slightly biased because the aforementioned nameless trio arrived late, set up slowly, and played over their time allotment so everyone behind them was also backed up about an hour. Our long set of one hour and forty-five minutes was shortened to an hour to help compensate for the time lost, and there was another act appearing before us. Coincidently, and here is where the universe plays crazy tricks on us–the act going on right before us was our friend and Couchsurfing host from Dallas, Tommie, who performs under the name TipTop Tommie.
We met Tommie and his girlfriend, Courtney, on our first trip to Dallas last fall. They responded to our Couchsurfing request for a host in Dallas and we have stayed with them a couple of times since then. They are truly excellent people and a ton of fun to hang out with, so seeing them there in Austin at Bar Mirabeau, with Tommie performing the set before ours, was a little coincidental. On the other hand, we had been helping each other find SXSW venues since January and we shared many of the same Austin contacts, so it may not have been that far fetched. Regardless, it was a great surprise to see them both hanging on the patio with all their friends.
Tommie is a rapper and writes his own mixes that he raps to and a few of his buddies jump up and rap with him. His performance was short-lived, but fun to watch and complete with a bubble machine and a Mexican mojito in hand.
After Tommie’s performance and over two hours after we first walked through the door, it was finally time for us to set up, and “as quickly as possible” was the name of the game. In record time we had Bobby’s guitar tuned and my keyboard set up, vocals checked, plus a cajon and pedal steel guitar balanced in the mix. Our set shrank to just forty-five minutes, but we made the most of it. Naturally sounding more polished and together than our first performance on Thursday, the songs flowed out; the vocals were sweet, the rhythms were solid, the “anticipations” and “stops” in the songs were all there, and it felt great. We brought a few patrons out of the restaurant and onto the patio, which is always a good sign; and feeling. Before I knew it, our time was up, and the next band was standing nearby with their equipment in hand, ready to take our place.
The delay in our show time messed with our evening plans a little bit, and we had to scrap a couple of venues/artists we were hoping to go see. I wasn’t super happy about it, but what can you do? It’s SXSW where you have to roll with the punches and remember to say, “yes” to the moment. So we set our sights on Ghostwolf; an alternative rock band from California, I think. Bobby knows their guitar player, so in the spirit of supporting friends and their music, we wanted to go see their show. It was a bit of a walk, so we quickly made our way towards the South Congress Bridge. Of course, along the way we ran into the kids from Turbine Toolshed, and hastily made plans to meet up later that night, but we had to keep moving if we were going to catch any of Ghostwolf. As we made our way across the bridge, we found ourselves weaving our way through droves of people heading back to 6th Street…not a good sign. When we got to the stage we were too late, the show was over. But we were able to touch base with Bobby’s friend, Evan, so the trip was worth it. Plus, on the way back to 6th Street, we got this pretty cool pic of the city:
The night ended with a trip down 6th Street to meet up with our friends, Dan Johnson and his lovely girl, Carley. But in order to get to the bar they were at, we had to walk several blocks east on 6th, which was one of the most absurd experiences of the entire week. Saturday night of SXSW, this city street in Austin was literally packed from one side to the other, and let me be clear so you can imagine the ridiculousness of the situation–from one building to the building on the other side of the street–with humans seeking music, booze, entertainment, and other things. Similar to other festivals, people were decked out in costumes, masks, or barely anything at all. It proved surprisingly difficult for Bobby and I just to stay together, much less navigate our way through the shifting current of bodies…I actually felt pretty claustrophobic a couple times and had to force my way through the mob to get out. All I could think about was how if anyone panicked, or if there were a real reason for everyone to suddenly “get out”, we’d all be in big trouble. Next time, we’re taking 7th Street!
Once we finally got off 6th and found our friends, we had a fantastically fun night of bar-hopping and line-jumping. We didn’t see any huge names since they were impossible to get in to see at this point, and did you hear the PRINCE did a secret show for an audience of 300 people? Lucky so-and-sos. Regardless, we painted the town Saturday night and pulled out all the stops for the last “official” night of SXSW. We had two shows on Sunday, so we weren’t going anywhere until Monday, but we still partied like it was our last night! By the time we finally hit the hay, the early birds were just beginning to greet the day. Sunday had already begun, but we were just wrapping up Saturday. In the next 24 hours, we would perform two shows, reunite with a couple Iowa friends, and little did we know, Dimebag Darrell–former Pantera guitarist, rock star martyr, and one of Bobby’s heroes–would in a way, be a part of our last show in Austin.
Thanks for reading!
Curra’s Grill is an excellent choice if you’re ever in Austin, TX looking for some fantastic Mexican food. The self-proclaimed (and appropriately so) “Mother of all Mex” serves heaping plates of food for a reasonable price all day long; and breakfast too. They have blue corn tortilla shells that, one of the chefs explained to Bobby and I, are made from actual blue corn from Mexico, instead of the imitation stuff you find in stores; who knew? Huge, hand-painted murals of Mexican and Texan folklore scenes cover the walls inside and out, and a bright blue roof beckons to hungry commuters and passers-by.
The small parking lot in front of the restaurant is a lawsuit just waiting to happen; it’s always packed with people backing out, pulling in, and is designed in such a way that it provides plenty of blind-spots and difficult maneuvers for hungry and sometimes impatient patrons–and since space is limited, you can imagine the ferocity with which some drivers pursue the last open parking spot. Scary. My advice: park on the street. That said, once you have parked and make your way inside, you are greatly rewarded for your efforts, and Jorge makes sure of it.
Jorge is the owner, manager, and booking agent for Curra’s Grill; we met him last year when he booked us for an unofficial SXSW show. He was happy to have us back this year and we were excited to have a ‘repeat’ venue in Austin for our second SXSW appearance. Our show was during Friday lunch hours: 11-2pm, and this particular Friday was a beautiful one. The sun was out, and it was a breezy 70-something degree day, so standing in the sun felt great! It actually felt a little too great, as I would realize later…
Joel Fadness, our drummer for SXSW, was joining us and once we were all set up, the show went very smoothly. It’s always a challenge playing outdoors, because acoustics don’t really exist in this setting. We were playing out by the front door, so the building itself was behind us, and the roof overhang provided a little bit of a shell, but since we usually don’t play with monitors, as was the case this particular Friday, it can be difficult to hear yourself and how your fitting in the mix. Regardless, I remember the show went well, and lots of people popped over to look at our merchandise and leave a card or an email address.
I also remember taking a bathroom break and being shocked when I looked in the mirror and saw my suddenly strawberry skin! My face was fine, since I had been oh-so smart and remembered my sunscreen lotion, but I neglected to realize my short-sleeve scoop-necked dress would leave my chest and arms vulnerable to the southern sun. Brilliant, Dietz, well done (no pun intended). The good news is…I’m tan? Ok, not really, I just cooked myself and looked pretty ridiculous for the rest of the weekend. Lucky for me, mother nature knows best and aloe plants THRIVE in Texas, so it didn’t last as long as it might have in other geographical locations. C’est la vie. But next time kids, remember your sunscreen.
That afternoon, after our show and marvelous Mexican feast, we made our way to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters–the venue that our newfound friend Eddie, told us he would be performing that day with Turbine Toolshed and Dan Johnson. We arrived in time to see their last set, and were very happy we did! They have a great combo and dynamic energy, and you can tell from first glance that everyone up there on stage is lovin’ what they are up to. Dan Johnson, our Amarillo Couchsurfing host and fantastic friend, played a few songs on his own, and a few in duet with a wonderfully sparkly girl, Maggie Burt. She has a killer set of pipes on her, and even though she was suffering from the same thing I had that day–a sundress with no sunscreen–she was awesome, and I heard an underlying power in her voice that I wanted to hear more of. It was good stuff.
Later that night, we had a show at an Austin coffee bar called, Kickbutt Coffee. Joel wouldn’t be able to join us for this show, but Thomas, our pedal steel player, was looking forward to sitting in with us. We arrived with plenty of time to set up and get ready, and everything went very smoothly. Kickbutt Coffee had hired a sound guy for the duration of SXSW, so the mix was great, set up and tear down were easy-peasy, and Thomas’ girlfriend, Jamie, joined us on stage with her flute for a couple songs and we all had a blast. It was a much shorter set–we only played for an hour–and time flies when you’re having fun.
Friday night we decided to take it easy and turn in early. We had three shows left that weekend, and we were definitely feeling tired, (and sunburned) so back to the house on Rainbow Bend we went. Saturday afternoon had one show on the books for us, and we wanted to be tip-top for Saturday night, the last “official” night of SXSW, when all the crazies come out and the biggest shows are happening. More on all that later…
Thanks for reading!