November 26, 2014

Live Music Addict : Soko, Lucero & Kurt Vile

live music review soko lucero and kurt vile

I’ve spoiled myself with live music these past two weeks. I had purchased tickets to Lucero and Kurt Vile back in September, but when I saw the listing for Soko’s Bootleg show on Tumblr, I immediately purchased tickets.

Soko was a mixture of poetry and punk. Her energy infectious and sassy attitude charming. Razing the sound guy up in the rafters of the venue, her arms wide open with a request to turn up the volume. Childlike but stylistically mature, Soko’s vulnerability onstage is refreshing when female artists can at times look over rehearsed. At one point she invited ladies in the audience to jump on stage for , “I thought I was an Alien”.  As I hate to live with what-if’s, I maneuvered to the stage to dance. Once on stage, she started instructing girls to follow suite at take off their tops. Yes, Soko had freed the nipples. Considering the tech environment we live in, my bare chest was not something I wanted stored on a strangers cell phone, so I inched my way towards bailing from the stage. But fortunately while still onstage, Soko began the song and a handful of girls remained to dance with our tops on. This was a smaller group than those with their tops off, but us squares stuck together.  Although this was a unique aspect of her show, I don’t want it to be a defining moment of the night. It only illustrates the energy and influence Soko has on her fans, creating an intimate environment like everyone is a dear friend and these are some songs she just wrote taken from her diary. Making confessions in her French accent to the audience of who songs may be about, or forgetting the words, as her own emotional memories are brought to the surface through her lyrics and fans feed the singer her next verse.  Before running to the car, Soko was standing outside, and gently interrupting her conversation I told her I thought she was beautiful and authentic, because there are no two better words to describe this musical artist.

Fast forward four days and I’m in Echo Park ready to be transported back to Memphis while listening to Lucero. Anxious and on a mission to tell the members of Lucero about meeting Dave Cousar, I mustered the courage to approach guitarist Brian Venable and piano/accordion player Rick Steff. They were both incredibly kind, and Brian took note of my Muscle Shoals t-shirt. I had to show my southern pride! This was my sixth time seeing Lucero, but Bowerbird’s first. Every show I’ll inch myself as close to the stage as possible and swoon, hanging onto every word Ben Nichols sings.  This show was no exception. Lucero was the only band that played that night, starting the show with slower songs and then playing sad songs with a bit more electricity in the second half. It’s quite an accomplishment when not only does a band have enough strong material to fill 3 hours, but the fans watching love and can sing-a-long to every second of it. Far from a self-indulgent performance, a Lucero show makes you feel like you’re at someone’s backyard house party. Fans sent shots to the stage for Ben and the band to drink. Whiskey shot after whiskey shot, Ben was forced to admit he had to do a few songs before the liquor really kicked in. It’s more fun to be at a Lucero show then to ever read about one, so next time they are in your city go! They practically tour 300 days out of the year. Also don’t ever request Darby’s Song – there is a very strong reason not to, and you can click this link to find out why.

Finally I finished my musical fortnight with Kurt Vile. I had seen him at Coachella a few years ago.  Sitting on the plush polo field, the sun was setting and I listened to “In my Baby’s Arms” thinking of how much I wished Bowerbird was there to watch Kurt Vile with me. I was at Coachella working, and he was back in Los Angeles. Since that Coachella set, seeing Kurt Vile with my man has been on my musical bucket list. This time together we got to see him perform at an equally impressive but incredibly more intimate venue, the First Unitarian Church in Koreatown. I’ve seen Mark Kozelek and Iron & Wine at this venue and it’s by far one of my favorites in LA, except for that fact it puts me to sleep. The comfortable seats and amazing acoustics of slow and sentimental songs lulls me to sleep. My heavy head springing up towards the end of songs, and my one squinty eye revolting against the ultimate micro-nap. This by no means is a reflection of the actual performers, only that I really am an 80 year old woman trapped inside a 20 something body; and that it doesn’t help that these artist are on my Siesta Pandora station.

Back to Kurt Vile, he is a humble musician who lets his music speak for him. I imagine him as the rocker nerd in High School, with long hair and wearing his sister’s jeans, scribbling songs and chords in his chemistry notebook. He performs like it’s just him and the band on stage, dudes (and the one female drummer during the encore) jamming out for fun and we’re just lucky enough to witness it. Although he has grown to be a household name among the Pitchfork devotees, there is no ego on stage. Changing guitars between each song Kurt Vile approaches his microphone and adjust his gear like an eager teenager playing his first big show. The songs weren’t flawless, but they also weren’t coming out of a pre-recorded track either. The whole point of a live show is to experience the music you enjoy streaming or playing on vinyl in a new way, not to hear exactly what was perfectly recorded and mixed. Aside from begging my mind to not be so tired, the Kurt Vile show was everything I had hoped for down to the hand holding with Bowerbird. 

Extremely proud of this photo of Kurt Vile.

Kurt Vile Live Show Red Bull Sound Select

November 15, 2014

ART + MUSIC : El Jaleo with Iron and Wine

I’ve been reading An Object of Beauty and this painting “El Jaleo” by John Singer Sargent (1882) is shown in the book. Immediately the image reminded my of the “Boy with a Coin” by Iron & Wine music video.  Now I will introduce this beautiful combination to my readers, enjoy.

El Jaleo John Singer Sargent  Painting

 

 

November 10, 2014

KY: On The Way to Louisville, We Found Zanzabar.

Road Trip Kentucky

“I know it’s all very charming with the pickled things in jars and the Southern Charm” – Hollie Baylor

The Bluegrass state stole my heart, and I don’t think I’ll ever get it back. From the moment we drove into Kentucky I felt like I was driving home. We had Ryan Adams coming through the radio, and the brilliant colored leaves whipping outside the window. The plan for day was to land in Louisville to sleep, and on our way there we would visit Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace and Elizabethtown.

I feel very close to our 16th president. After taking a 50 question survey on which American president I would be, I am most similar to Abraham Lincoln. I find this to be my greatest testament of character, and wish I could add it to my resume. “Personality type for problem solving, leadership, and community is identical to our most beloved president Abraham Lincoln,” says the online 50 question survey. Abraham Lincoln was also an Aquarius.  Sadly because of our other detours on our way to Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, we arrived after it was closed. Thirty minutes too late, the yellow barrier fence blocked me from visiting the cabin off in the distance where Lincoln took his first breath.  The barrier fence was as tall as my knee. I could easily jump over and run like a maniac down the hill, but considering it’s federal land, I didn’t feel like trespassing that day.  We later drove over to Abraham Lincoln’s ‘boyhood home’ where he lived till his family moved to Illinois.  It’s not the actual house he lived in, but it’s in the same area and gives travelers a sense of the land that shaped Lincoln.

 

The detours that delayed us from Lincoln’s birthplace included fossil washing at Historic Diamond Caverns, and using the restroom at Dinosaur World.  I loved the days when we could just follow signs and billboards we saw off the highway. Totally spontaneous, it was the unplanned moments that shaped our most memorable encounters.

One of my top ten favorite movies is Elizabethtown. I’ve watched it countless times, love the soundtrack, and have quoted Claire in my own life. I even reference Elizabethtown in a past blog entry when talking about Bowerbird before we started dating. Elizabethtown is this small town in Kentucky, and although most of the small town scenes weren’t even filmed in Elizabethtown, I wanted to visit it. In the center of the downtown area is a court house that doubles as a fallout shelter. As it was after 5pm, everything was closed. Practically a ghost town, we received a few confused stares from the drivers going in the roundabout. I probably looked ridiculous as I was trying to capture buildings in the background of my multiple (failed) selfies.  We weren’t there long, but it satisfied my Elizabethtown fantasy. Plus Bowerbird took a picture with a field of corn on our way out. Corn stalks are very tall.

Louisville is only about two hours from Elizabethtown, and sitting in the passenger seat I coordinated our Airbnb stay and found us a place to eat dinner. Searching Yelp I came across The Zanzabar, a bar and restaurant with pinball machines galore. I went to the website to view the menu and saw they were having a trivia night and would be showing the season premiere of The Walking Dead. It was a no-brainer we had to visit this place. A family run establishment, two brothers created their dream hang out. Good beer, great food, and lots of fun. The menus are inside vinyl record covers, we had Abba and BB King.  We order the shrimp po-boy and fries. Both delicious and seasoned well, we loved that the po-boy had avocado inside. Zanzabar is all about that unexpected extra touch.

 

We met the co-owner Antz after he apologized for a drunk patron he had thought was bothering us. We told him everything was fine, and then started talking about music.  We saw Surfer Blood was playing there in a few weeks, and we chatted about the other bands that have graced The Zanzabar stage. I impressed Antz by knowing the name of Sean Lennon’s band, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, when he was recounting how cool and nice Sean was. I’m still dying to see GOASTT. Not because of Sean Lennon’s famous father, but because I really love the music and artistic concept behind the group. Plus I have a total girl crush on Charlotte Kemp. Chatting about Los Angeles and traveling, we totally bonded with Antz. He gave us some Zanzabar swag and fun memories. Bowerbird kicked my butt at Dolly Parton pinball.

My one regret from this trip was that I didn’t take pictures of the people we met. I’d love to have an album filled with the faces of the interesting people from the road.  Fortunately Antz and his brother were on Offbeat Eats with Jim Stacy, the “Game On” episode. You can see Antz in the video below playing a live action game of Donkey Kong. He has the green hat on.

November 4, 2014

SC : HUSK RESTAURANT – The Food

HUSK Restaurant Road Trip

This road trip was all about being open to new experiences, approaching life with an openness to meeting new people, trying new foods, taking detours, and seeing where we end up. Luckily we ended up at a table in Charleston, South Carolina at the acclaimed Husk Restaurant; there is a location in Nashville as well. Currently Chef Sean Brock of Husk restaurant is in the middle of a book tour for his first cookbook Heritage. I’ll need to pick up this book for Bowerbird, so we can relive our night of pure gastro bliss. Getting a table at Husk was a significant part of this culinary adventure, and I can’t thank Sean and Kristin enough for making it happen.

Husk Charleston is well situated in an antebellum style home built in the late 19th century. A white picket fence surrounds a courtyard that leads out to a separate side house where waiting diners can start with drinks and appetizers at the bar, which was packed with liquor and people. Bowerbird and I squeezed through the crowd to the opposite end, away from the door, to get bourbon before dinner. I tried to snap some photos but the dark lighting made it difficult without being obnoxious to other patrons. The bartenders were sharp and fast, there were about 30 people inside and only two bartenders attending them- I commend them. Just as we were about to take our drinks out of the bar house and into the courtyard for a less claustrophobic experience, the bartender unveils a massive ham leg (what I think) for fresh sliced Prosciutto. Please correct me in the comments below, but whatever that was, I want it next time.

 

HUSK Charleston Bar House

When we were seated our extremely nice waiter made a comment that we’d traveled a long way. Being a giant dork, I didn’t even connect the fact he would know about my road trip tweet and went into the entire story. He politely smiled and said he knew then he inquired if I was a chef myself. I informed him I wasn’t, but an avid eater and food appreciator. Confession: I’ve been caught more than once talking to my food in a restaurant.

To begin our dining experience, the waiter brought out warm rolls served with a side of pork fat honey butter. These rolls were light and could be pulled apart like cotton candy. There was a subtle flavor of bacon, topped with toasted sesame seeds adding a woodsy flavor to compliment the sweet bread. As a first impression, the rolls had me on my knees; I could eat those morning, noon, and night.

HUSK dinner rolls

Bowerbird and I shared two first courses and two suppers. Based on the menu from the night before, we strategized our dining experience during our drive from Richmond to Charleston. We had wanted to experience as many flavors as possible and in the end chose four different proteins to sample.

We ordered wood fired clams and smoked Surry County sausage with braised peppers and mustard greens in a tomato broth served with roasted garlic toast; and TN pork ribs with peach BBQ, pickled peaches and green peanuts with puffed pork skins as our two first courses. Bowerbird can’t have anything with added sugar, which makes experiencing southern BBQ difficult, as brown sugar tends to be a main ingredient. But our waiter assured us there was no additional sugar in the peach BBQ and relied strictly on the natural sugars in the fruit.

 

We started with the wood fired clams which had a delicate flavor profile and were light and buttery while bursting with garlic flavor, the tomato broth was savory and void of acid. The sweet onions and red bell peppers balanced the bitterness of the mustard greens and fennel in the Surry County sausage. It seemed as if the saltiness in the dish came straight from the ocean, we sopped up every last drop of the broth with the one piece of garlic toast we had. At times I wish I didn’t need to be classy at the dinner table, manners prevent one from truly having every last bite.

We waited until we were done with the clams before eating the BBQ pork ribs. This unfortunately had us experiencing the ribs when they were lukewarm but none-the-less they were still amazing. The TN pork ribs were thick on the bone, they’re then charred on the outside just enough to add a good smoky flavor but not unpleasantly burnt. Slathered in BBQ sauce, it had a spicy kick that built with each bite. The caramelized peaches brought a unique element to the BBQ sauce. I was most impressed by the elegant touch of green peanuts, as it added a satisfying crunch to the tender meat. The puff pork melted in our mouth and stuck in our teeth like taffy, it added a fun factor to the plate. Being of Hawaiian heritage, in reminiscing about the dish it reminds me of something I would have in Hawaii; but instead of pineapples they used peaches, and instead of macadamia nuts they used green peanuts.

For our supper we ordered cornmeal dusted catfish, sweet corn and VA sausage “gumbo” with Carolina gold rice, charred okra, and confit cherry tomatoes. I’m a duck fiend, so we also ordered the confit duck leg with Anson Mills Brewster oats, heirloom pumpkin and chestnuts, Tuscan kale, honey vinegar, and spiced chevre. Both of these dishes were delicious and inspired very strong narratives. When I had a music and art blog, I’d describe the music in narratives. It’s the same for how I experience food. Stories develop in my imagination, the food being the inspiration.

The catfish was soft and flaky and it didn’t have that odd bottom feeder flavor, instead it acted as the perfect canvas to the gumbo Creole spices. The cornmeal crust was a crisp delicate second skin on the catfish. The confit tomatoes were out of this world- while being only the size of my thumb nail, this tiny tomato burst in my mouth, enveloping it in a rich savory flavor. It was like tasting a tomato for the first time. The dish was young, fresh, light and vibrant.

 

HUSK Catfish

 

On the other plate, the duck was moist and tender. The entire flavor palate rich and warm, it resonated within a deeper place and felt more mature. I didn’t know this was possible, but the cooked kale was succulent. The oats, pumpkin, and chestnut were mixed together as sort of risotto, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon; it was like tasting autumn.

 

HUSK Duck Confit

 

Every bite of the duck confit wrapped me up in a cozy blanket and invoked a sense of nostalgia. Its a dish you’d want to serve your family during the holidays. The catfish was more youthful, its story younger. I could imagine it being made for a one year anniversary, and the home cook’s funny little mishaps till it was executed just right.

The two suppers were like the past and future existing on our table. Bowerbird and I have been together for two years. The catfish dinner tasted like those first few dates where you’re nervous and everything is electrified with newness. The duck confit our future, with decades of memories collected together and a deep love enriched by time.

Sean Brock is all about the story and heritage that is conveyed through food. I felt like I was served, tasted, and understood those stories; at least on how they apply to my own life. I hope I was able to give our dinner justice. I did order dessert, but at that point had pushed my stomach beyond its limitations and with a few mindless bites of the apple potpie, all I can report back is that it was good. My dinner at Husk was one of the best meals of my life. It almost brought me to tears. The whole experience of getting the table, the amazing food we ate, one of my favorite bands Drive by Truckers playing over the speakers in the background. It was a culinary dream come true. Husk completely indulged my five major senses. I’m so happy I didn’t give up when I saw there were no reservations available or that I didn’t surrender to a full stomach when dessert came.

If you are incredibly lucky and in Charleston looking for the best meal of your life, book in advanced for a fantastic night at HUSK. Here is a link to book your reservation.

November 3, 2014

SC : HUSK RESTAURANT – The Table

South Carolina HUSK

As we are back from the road posts might be a little out of chronological order, like this one! We left off in the first half of Nashville which was the 9th of October, now let’s fast forward to the 15 & 16. Zoooom!

One of the most exciting things to happen on this trip was getting seats at the fully booked Husk Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina through twitter. Yes, Twitter! Before we left for this trip, I was expressing to a friend that we would be traveling mostly through the south. He told me I had to check out the second season, first part of The Mind of a Chef (available on Netflix). This portion of the show is strictly about Southern food hosted by Chef Sean Brock of Husk Restaurant. He expresses his love for heritage grains and preserving the history and stories of backwoods cooking that earned the south its culinary distinction. From the Low country to the Appalachian Mountains, before southern cooking was only known for fried chicken, mac and cheese, gravy and grits; it had flavors and grains that were unique to the seeds and people.

I respect Chef Sean Brock and his passion for food and its purpose in preserving his heritage. He’s even explored the history of the flavors brought to the states through the southern slave trade. It’s agreed slavery is a terrible horrible institution, but it’s a part of American history and shaped the south. I believe Sean Brock addresses all aspects of Southern cooking and food in a very educated manner, that’s why I HAD TO GO TO HUSK!

On October 15, we were in Williamsburg, Virginia. As we would be heading to Charleston the next day, I thought, “Oh I should probably book a reservation, just in case”. Putting in our arrival time into Open Table I watched as the loading dots searched for a table and presented the next available reservation, 5:30pm October 28. My heart sank. I was shocked. I felt stupid for not booking earlier, and then started coming up with reasons I couldn’t have booked earlier to make myself feel better. Bowerbird could see how terribly upset I was, I felt like the stormy clouds that loomed outside. The rain that fell down were my tears. But as my mother always told me, there is no use feeling sorry for yourself. I rallied. I told Bowerbird “Maybe we can just get a seat at the bar” or “Hang out till a reservation cancels.” We were going to Charleston just for HUSK. I packed a pretty dress. There was no way I was giving up so easy.

My professional bread and butter is Social Media Management. I’m no social superstar, yet. My follower count on Twitter is under 300. But I was going to Tweet Husk anyway….

HUSK twitter

Being a social media professional I thought it might be hours or a day before anyone read my tweets. So I turned to Sean! I had tweeted him before, while watching the show. He never interacted with me, but maybe he remembered my tweet to his buddy Edward Lee regarding a Dolly Parton karaoke showdown. I directed my plea to the chef, because I really just wanted to experience his cooking. I didn’t need the fancy restaurant. I just wanted to taste the grains, farms, and the southern heritage Sean puts into his dishes at HUSK. This road trip was all about the South, I could not give up on the ultimate in southern cooking.

Sean Brock Twitter

I tweeted in the rain with droplets collecting on my screen to the point I was afraid of water damage. My request was out in the universe and on Twitter. Now all I could do was wait. Dan and I explored Williamsburg.  Drank a beer in a non-designated area like teenagers, hiding next to Coca Cola vending machines. Visited the museum and exhibit on the first colonial Mental Institution on the site of the first asylum. We even had a delightful dinner in one of the colonial restaurants. They fortunately had available space when we made reservations.

When we got back to the car, I was feeling really weird. This was also the day after we had stayed in the haunted hotel, more on that later. I had to stop and pray. Not pray for us to get seats at HUSK, but just that this heavy weird feeling that was lingering would go away. As we drove to the home of our couch surfer, I received a tweet from a Kristin saying she was happy to help with my mission to HUSK.

Kristin and I began corresponding through email regarding the reservation. Emails that my phone was not receiving in a timely manner, and created some anxiety as we drove down to Charleston the next day. But in the end it all worked out, by 1:30pm on October 16 we had reservations for that night at 8:30pm. My Mom and Dad are amazing home cooks, I’ve been spoiled with delicious food my entire life. I appreciate the work that goes into a plate, and nothing peeves me more than overpriced mediocre food. The dinner at HUSK was not the case. I’m splitting this up into two stories, as I feel the lead up was just as interesting as the actual dinner itself. So if you would like to continue reading – click here – .

Once again it was shown to me you really bring about what you think about. I had told the story of Husk and Sean Brock to dozens of people since I’d watched Mind of a Chef.  Every person we met and asked what we had planned, I mentioned going to HUSK. I tried to express the enormity and importance of preserving grains and seeds to other people, the way Sean shared it on Mind of a Chef. Now I get to share just how amazing his cooking is too.

Here is the schedule for Sean’s “Heritage” book tour. It started on October 19, and unfortunately it never synced up with our own trip.  If you happen to be in the same town as his tour, I really urge you to go. He is a personable chef with a lot of heart and understands how to deliver flavor!

Sean Brock Heritage

October 27, 2014

I Love the United States : Kris Nations Interview

krisnation_interview

Aside from blogging my own stories; I really love to interview small business, designers, people pursuing and sharing their passion. For my birthday 2 years ago Bowerbird gave me “The United States” necklace by Kris Nations, it was supposed to help keep me focused on my dream. And look now, I’ve made/making that dream a reality. The chain on the necklace broke about a year ago, and a month before the trip I sent it back to Kris Nations to be fixed. They were great about the repair, and even answered the list of question I sent along with the request. I’ve worn my United States necklace every day with out fail, I’m not a huge selfie person, but if you see a glint of gold on my neck on Instagram that’s the necklace.

Interview with Kim of Kris Nations

Kris Nations is run and created by two sisters, Kim and Kris. With my own sister, my strengths are her weaknesses and vice-versa. Do you find that in your own partnership? Is Kim stronger at one aspect of the business, and Kris stronger at another?

KIM: Kris started the business on the side while we were both living and working in SF. Kris was the real risk-taker, giving up her “real job” first. I’m more conservative so our personalities balance each other out in a lot of aspects of our business.

What was the first piece of jewelry you ever made? Was it for yourself, or did you give it to someone else?

KIM: Kris is the jewelry maker. She used to make jewelry for herself and then make some for friends once they saw what she was wearing.

I found my Kris Nation piece at Letters From LA located in Eagle Rock, CA. Did Kris Nation start as an etsy or online store first, and then grow to retailers? Or was it a simultaneous effort?

KIM: We had our website first and then grew the wholesale side of the business. My background is in web design so I designed and programmed our first website.

Running your own business has ups and down, plus there is more emotional investment. For other small business owners, what advice can you give for pushing through the self doubt?

KIM: As long as you remain passionate about your work, the highs outweigh the lows. But the lows can be low. It’s usually about money, and lack of it! Just hang in there, work smarter, stay focused on your long-term goals.

Your jewelry is well made, stylish, adorable! It’s no surprise it’s received great press. Does Kris Nation work with a PR group or has it all been in house hustle and flow?

KIM: We have a PR firm based out of SF. We also work closely with the firm. When we have ideas, we share and ask them to follow up on our ideas. You need to work closely with a PR firm, the more effort you can put in, the better. It’s hard when you are always putting out fires, but it’s important.

My dream is to have an epic road trip across the country. It’s why I was given the United States necklace as a gift. Do you have a great sisterly road trip or vacation memory you can share with us?

KIM: OMG! Yes! Kris and I used to travel from San Francisco to Las Vegas for our very first few trade shows. I’m not sure why we didn’t fly? Probably because we had a quite elaborate booth setup that needed to be hauled there. On one trip, we ran out of gas (duh?!) and spent a few hours waiting for AAA to save us. It was dark and we passed the time guessing flavors of Jelly Belly’s. I’m remarkably horrible at guessing flavors. We have fond memories of visiting our Aunt and Uncle about half way to Vegas. They are the sweetest couple ever. Our uncle passed away over a year ago and we have very fond memories of our visits and their encouragement during this very early stage of our business.

KrisNaions_selfie

Our country is really beautiful, and filled with good hearts and talented people. Thankfully I had the opportunity to experience a sliver of the it this month. If it wasn’t for my lack of clothing options and unpredictable sleeping accommodations, I might stay on the road forever. Make meeting new people and visiting new places a regular routine.

I’ll be going home with a confident direction, new ideas, an outline of a plan, and a need to write a lot of emails. People like the woman of Kris Nations inspire me to commit to myself, take a gamble on myself. I hope these interviews encourage others to trust in themselves to be able to achieve anything they desire.

October 25, 2014

being on the road…

Being on the road and blogging isn’t nearly as easy as I had imagined. Heck being on the road and journaling is hard to. This writer has had very little downtime. I imagine the traveling writers of yesteryear would jot down their notes and stories while waiting for a bus or train. Right now I’m laying in bed of an Airbnb place, the sun is coming through shear white curtains and its quiet. When I get back home I’ll continue to share about each day of the trip. For myself I’ll take the time to go through the memory of each day and write it down, exercise my mind to remembering the specifics of each state. Right now the places and people flash in my mind like a disorganized slideshow.

Since Nashville we’ve been to Louisville, a haunted hotel in West Virgina, got a table at a booked restaurant in Charleston, pet a deer, held an Alligator, and have eaten so much good food our bodies absolutely hate us. Every night I go to sleep exhausted from a well lived day, and I think that is the greatest success of this adventure. To experience all the day and night can offer till I can’t absorb another ounce of “insert place here”.

October 19, 2014

TN: Johnny Cash & Nashville

nashville roadtrip

One of my favorite shows on television right now is Nashville. Admittedly, this show influenced a few choices in the process of planning this trip. I was looking forward to all the bright lights and country songs. Plus I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan. My Ji-chan (grandpa in Japanese) loved Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. Bowerbird was raised on the Grand Ole Opry. The Music City was a pretty big destination for us. But lodging for our first night there, the 9th, was not planned.  At the recommendation of some people we met at Muscle Shoals Sound, we went to a Bed and Breakfast owned by their friend. They had even given the B&B a call to see if we could get a discounted room. Unfortunately once we got there it seemed to be deserted. Thank modern technology for Airbnb, because at 9pm we were able to find beautiful lodging for an insanely reasonable price. It was under $100.

The Airbnb place was really close to the B&B, so close when I looked at the address I thought it was only 4 houses down from the bed and breakfast. When I called the Airbnb host to clarify what house was his, because we couldn’t find the driveway he indicated in the arrival details. He informed us we were ten blocks north of his home. Same street, but instead of 612 it was 1612 – doh! After a day on the road, I swear you lose a few brain cells.

Located in East Nashville, a trendy part of town that is comparable to Soho or Los Feliz. We couldn’t have lucked out anymore, this place was gorgeous.  In the morning we decided to go “running”, and I put running in quotations because it’s more of a fast paced walk in full workout clothes. Seriously, we packed running shoes and have only used them once. Regardless I’m so glad we took the time to “exercise”, because with the tree lined streets and turn of the century homes, East Nashville could easily be the neighborhood Mr. Rodgers was always singing about.

Next we dived straight into tourist central, downtown Nashville. We ended up spending nearly 2 hours in the Johnny Cash museum. Not a very big museum, but we read every caption under the photos. It even includes a poem written by Johnny after June’s funeral. I dare the toughest guy to read that and not tear up a little. I love their love story. I don’t endorse how Johnny handled his relationship with his first wife Vivian, but you can’t deny that J.R and June’s love ran deep. Watching videos of the two performing, you see this puppy dog love in Johnny Cash’s eyes that makes a girl weak in the knees and pray for the same devotion.

Being a fan of country from a far, but far from a historian the Ryman and Opry history always confused me. So when we came across the Ryman I was excited to purchase tickets to the backstage tour in order to get my facts straight. The original home of the Opry, the floors are the same wooden panels from the 1800’s when it was a church. The dressing rooms are themed based on the famous faces that had sung on its stage. We learned the history of those kicked out of the Ryman and the backdoor they used to drink at the bar next door.

When we were in the Ryman a friend of mine texted me to get ahold of Bowerbird. Knowing we were in Nashville, he tried to contact his friend, Ikey Owens, a member of Jack White’s band to give us a tour of Third Man Records, but unfortunately he was on tour. Ikey passed away a few days later. Not knowing him personally, we couldn’t help but be shocked and saddened at the eerily close timing to both incidents. My Facebook feed was full of his mutual friends sharing stories and out pours of love. I don’t live far from Long Beach, and he had lived there for years before moving to Nashville only six months prior. I’m happy my friend was able to text and have a conversation with Ikey, before his untimely passing, even if it were brief. While on the road you can’t help but reflect on life and purpose. You feel more appreciative of the friendships you have, a comfortable bed, the potential in every new day. Ikey Owens impacted a lot of lives. Like I said, my Facebook feed was filled with friends sharing their memories and mourning of the loss of their friend. I didn’t get the opportunity to meet him, but he seemed to live a life full of creative passion and love. I’ll continue to strive to live a life with the same intention, and wanted to give a little respect to this fantastic friend to my friends.

On that note, I’ll end this post here. Later that night we went to Prince’s Hot Chicken and saw Johnny Cash’s home, but more on that another day. Our hotel tomorrow has Wifi so unless I get wasted on Bourbon street, I should be able to post more in the coming days.

B, Bekka

October 17, 2014

Sweet Sounds Alabama

Muscle Shoals Road Trip

“Buy a chevy get a gun!” announced the radio commercial somewhere in Mississippi followed by another commercial with a sultry women’s voice enticing the listener, “ever wanted to get into exotic dancing, come down on talent night and make lots of money”.

Leaving Memphis we drove through Mississippi and Alabama to get to Muscle Shoals. The trees in Mississippi have vines growing all around them, connecting each tree with an overgrowth that sweeps down up and around. Men drove tractors on the side of the freeway keeping nature away from the road, pulling trailers that pushed down on the long grass and probably cut the vines.

I’d seen the documentary earlier in the year, and it motivated me further to start planning actual stops on our road trip. Bowerbird and I being music nerds, Muscle Shoals was a must see destination followed by Fame Studio which is around the corner and down the street. The documentary is a little confusing when it comes to the timeline of both studios, but Muscle Shoals Sound studio was established after the partners at Fame studio decided to go their separate ways.

Trying to be a prepared tourist, I messaged Muscle Shoals Sound earlier in the month to make sure they we’re open the 8th as I know the studios will be restored. I got a friendly reply back saying the studios were open till 2pm that day. Bowerbird and I do not arrive places early together, more like right on time. So when we of course left Memphis a little later than intended, we tried to be light hearted and joked the entire way to Muscle Shoals, looking at our GPS which read ETA 1:57 and every time we increased our arrival time I’d chime “we will have 6 minutes at the studio – damn now only 3 minutes – come on sweetheart I know we can get 9 minutes.”

As we drove up I saw someone from the studio come outside and remove the open sign from the front lawn. I had Bowerbird flip a Dukes of Hazard u-turn and hopped out of the car before we officially parked. Opening the door to the studio, the adrenaline was pumping as I asked the guide if we could still look around. She kindly said yes, her name being Georgia.

The Muscle Shoals tour is informal with a capital I. You walk around this hallow ground, where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote music, Simon and Garfunkel recorded, the sound of a generation was shaped at your own speed. Pictures hung on the walls with the famed musicians working in the studio, writing is physically written on the wall like playful boys marking their spot. The toilet seat from which “Wild Horses” came into fruition. Georgia shared stores with us, explained the structure of the building, and how tiny it felt when it was originally in operation due to how large engineering equipment used to be. To think now most people just make music on their laptops, and before it took an attention to detail and agility to make sure everything was laid right because the last thing you can afford is a botched recording.

Apparently one of the Swampers haunts the property today, and most of the photos I took are blurry, so it makes you wonder. Although I didn’t feel any spooky spirit, not like I did in West Virginia but that’s another story. Here are a few of my favorite shots from Muscle Shoals.

After Muscle Shoals we visited Fame Studios for a tour. Still an operating studio, we only saw Studio B as they were recording in Studio A. The history of Fame was shared along with the stories that directly came from Studio B. My favorite being guitarist, Duane Allman camping outside Fame Studios until Rick the owner would give him a chance to perform and record. He slept in the parking lots for weeks till he was given a chance, and I just loved the story of commitment and roughing it out to get what you want. It’s a metaphor for all success, because the road to success sure isn’t comfortable.

Bekka an d Bowerbird at Muscle Shoals Sound

We are in South Carolina right now, and clearly in the second half of the trip, 3rd quarter. I’m trying not to get sad, while already on it. Mourn the loss of the trip, while I still have more states to go to I’ve never seen. Tonight is Atlanta, the day after possibly southern Alabama and next Monday – New Orleans! Ok I’m no longer mourning, I’m just excited. So many wonderful things have happened on this trip, even a few weird things. But altogether I’m living my dream, I’m seeing new sights. Yesterday I picked cotton off the side of the road. I’m experiencing life in a way I don’t normally get to, and that in itself is the greatest part of this adventure. It’s new.  For me a full life is achieved when you seek out new experiences, break routine, and get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a thrill seeker going to a silent yoga retreat or a shy introvert going on stage and belting out their voice. Variety is the spice of life they say, so let’s spice it up!

October 15, 2014

TN: Back to Memphis…

road trip Memphis

Memphis is the hometown to one of my favorite bands of all time, Lucero. They were the first band I ever saw by myself, and if my heart had a soundtrack it would be comprised of Lucero songs. I made it a mission of mine to visit 1372 Overton Park, not only the title of an album but an actual address in Memphis. Lucero’s musical roots in Memphis, it’s where the band lived and wrote music for years. A loft on top of a Thrift Store, taking a picture with the door to 1372 was my little piece of Lucero memorabilia. I asked the Sun Records tour guide what was near 1372 Overton Park, as I was a huge Lucero fan, and she lit up with the familiarity of talking about a wonderful mutual friend.  A few of the members had played on her own record. She recommended a few bars, but told us the place to go that night to potentially run into Lucero members was Buccaneer. A friend of Lucero and fellow musician, Dave Cuosar was playing at 11pm. I was completely committed to seeing this local act, and till then we filled our time with local Memphis finds.

We chose to experience the delicious ribs at Central BBQ. Their hot BBQ sauce still teases my phantom senses. The meat fell off the bone, but wasn’t too dry, only around the blackened edges that gave it an extra smoky flavor. Next we went to Beale Street. The tourist trap of Memphis. Its neon signs draw the out-of-towners like a moth to the flame. But once on it, aside from the jazz and blue grass music that fills the air outside stuffy bars, it is a dead street. We left just as soon as we arrived, walking up and down it once, and then hoping back in the car.

Beal Street Memphis

On ward we went to one of the other bars our Sun Tour guide suggested, we came across Overton Square. A colorful street lined with restaurants and bars, the buildings were really interesting. A mixture between the old and new, most of them had to either been built or renovated within the last ten years. Maintaining the structures charm and a certain amount of character most modern establishments’ lack. We pulled over to explore, stopping inside Boscos, a Tennessee brewing company. Enjoying a flight, we overheard two college students discussing their Knoxville campus. Sharing that the campus was socially segregated, and how some of their friends don’t know how to talk to black people. I was stunned, my ear glued to the conversation. I can’t fathom the idea of not knowing how to talk to someone because of their skin color. Language barrier yes, but a different ethnic background… it was my first real taste of the stereo-typical south everyone warns you about. This same person then went on to discuss how they didn’t care for Jewish people. Let’s just all agree, that as a society we should look at people as an individual and not respond to someone based on a skewed idea of a group of people.

memphis overton square

After the flight we headed to First Avenue which was one of the first venues Lucero played at. It was a pretty mellow night, and we took a seat at the bar. Watching the baseball game on the TV, those sitting at the counter bonded over a singer on the screen wearing a bizarre parade float styled hat upon her head.  Soaking in the vibe, when I told the bartender we were there as I was informed Lucero got their start there, he handed me an old guitar pick. “This could be from them, or perhaps another band, one thing for certain it’s old.” He went on to say how members of Lucero still come in, and the bassist was across the street at a different bar the night before.

Then on to the Buck, a dive bar located inside a yellow house. It was filled with cigarette smoke and illuminated with red lights. Set up on an area that was clearly designated for bands, but hardly a stage, was one guitar and a stack of amps. Arriving ten minutes till the show, we ordered drinks, took a seat and watched Dave come out of the shadows and take his seat next to the guitar. That night we got one of the best shows I’ve seen in 2014.  Dave Cousar is an artist with the guitar. He plays in a way that I’ve never heard before, making the guitar cry and wine, vibrate beneath his fingertips. An abstract painting of folk and rock, he is what Bob Dylan should be. I made up a story in my head that Dave and Dylan were at the same festival or audition, and by some random accident Dave couldn’t go on, letting Dylan take the stage and the slot for that sound. I think Dave is a little younger than Dylan, but man did his voice just weave through notes rising and falling. Mid-set he paused, and aside from my enjoyment of the music I was getting really sleepy. We told Dave how much we loved his set and he humbly thanked us, even gave me his own I just saw the guys in Lucero story.

dave cousar memphis

That night I didn’t see any of the members of Lucero, but I met them through Memphis. I began to gain a better sense of the band through friends, acquaintances, the musicians they play with for fun. Driving up and down the same streets they do, and talking with the same friendly faces they know to be familiar. If I wasn’t going to see Lucero live in Memphis, that night was the best I could have asked for. I look forward to name dropping Dave to Ben at The Echo in November.

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