Places I Meant to Never Go: IL, MI, IN, IA, MO, KS, OK

06/22/2010 at 12:18 am | Posted in 49>50, News & Explanations, Stories from the Road | 24 Comments

I know I’ve split an infinitive, but in that secret corner of my brain where un-funny things are funny it’s a Star Trek reference.

I HAVE AN IDEA.  I don’t want to forget all the amazing things happening on this trip, but I can’t blog about everything either.  In fact, having ambitions too lofty for my blogs has prevented me from writing them at all, and then I have to lump several states together like this, which is quite unfair.  SO!  Right here, in the comments, if you met me at one of these shows — or hosted, or tried to, or have some other memory to relate about the trip — share it!  If you took photos, share the link!  These state-oriented blog entries are about to become my yearbook from the 49>50 Tour.  I’m relying on you!  SO PLEASE…take a moment to share a memory from the state where you saw me!

I owe the entire middle of the country a huge apology.  My whole life, I have unconsciously adopted that obnoxious “flyover states” mentality, imagining visiting all these exciting locations on the coast while leaving the Midwest and the Heartland untouched by my wandering thoughts.  It’s official:  I’m sorry.  Very sorry.  You middle states are amazing.  And by and large, where you have cool arts scenes, you are creating them yourselves without the aid of hype.  I will be back for sure.

My snobbery was fully satisfied by fantastic beer in Indianapolis, Des Moines, and Oklahoma City.  My sweet tooth was blown away by my first Dutch Letters from a street vendor in Pella IA, ice cream in Saugatuck MI, and incredible S’more cookies (house-made marshmallows and graham crackers included!) in Manhattan KS. I had an unforgettable farm-to-table breakfast at The Farmhouse in Kansas City, where I was mistaken for a food blogger and so given the best of service.  And I had a nice long talk with the chef.  (And the fact is — the meal was PERFECT, my best eggs benny in recent memory, not overseasoned or overcooked, a perfect serving size on airy fresh bread — amazing stuff.  The farm-fresh eggs tasted so much better than I’m used to, they needed very little improvement — each ingredient had more flavor by virtue of being local and direct from the farm.  The coffee was fantastic (French press only) and the price was quite reasonable, $8 I believe for the average brunch entrée.  So there, now I’m a food blogger.  Go there and tell ’em I sent ya.)

I think I shall remember this whole trip by food and people, because that’s what changes for me from day to day.  So it’s up to you to help me remember the details of the shows.  I accidentally booked myself 15 shows in a row, from Minneapolis down to Claremore, OK.  Oops.  But my voice survived.  We played in 3 living rooms, 2 backyards, 2 parks, several cafes, the odd bar, and an advertising agency (!).  I love my job.  Sometimes there were 60 people, sometimes 10.  Sometimes I slept in a nice hotel, mostly on couches and futons and floors.  Let it be known that if you decide to come out to a show, it’s possible that at the beginning or the end you might be the only one listening.  So your presence is critical!

Chicago made it to the finals in hockey.  I think it’s referred to as the “Stanley Cup” or something.  Anyway, they were playing at the same time as me — and I decided I was going to lose that battle.  So huge thanks to the two dozen awesome listeners who stuck out the game for a show start nearly 90 minutes late!  And what a great show it was — my first with new-to-me guitarist Bryan Ray.  In Michigan I had a garden concert outside a cafe and met some longtime web friends I was thrilled to encounter IRL.  I also met friend-of-a-friend Matthew Frank, author of my current read and new favorite book Barolo.  Which you ought to buy and read, because it’s about wine and food and Italy and running from the law.

In Indianapolis, my backyard Memorial Day concert was rained out, so we had it in the living room instead — which I felt was a far superior space.  The crowd of friends there were hilarious, and indulged my appetite for Indiana history while we talked hours into the night.  I’m still not entirely clear on what a “Hoosier” is but at least I have context.  My cafe show the next day at Lazy Daze packed the tiny deck beyond capacity and the audience trickled onto the lawn and sidewalk.  Rural Iowa is completely gorgeous, as far as I’m concerned — the rolling green hills and trees amaze me even in my mind’s eye.  I played in Fairfield — the center of the universe, according to the Maharishi — so, center of the universe show, check.  The house concert was on a beautiful green lawn with fireflies and roaming children, and afterwards we all sang folk songs in the living room for hours.  We also had a map-off in which two other girls and I drew the United States freehand from memory at top speed.  (I owe the East Coast an apology, BTW.)  The next day I played for a small but vocal and devoted geeky crew in Des Moines, and we went out for the mother of all beer samplers after.

In Kansas City I played First Friday, which was mostly a walk-by sort of event.  Not so many people listened, but those who did were fantastic.  I felt all the more determined to give it my all for those few folks who stopped and paid attention.  Afterwards I went out into the KC nightlife and felt more utterly totally vanilla than I have in years.  I am so unhip in that nightlife kind of way.  I wanted a book and a beer and a board game.  Thankfully Manhattan, KS came after, and my friend Jason set us up a fabulous show in a real black box theater with amazing acoustics — such a luxury!  It was well-attended and intimate and beautiful.  And the place we stayed was so geeky there were comic books next to the bed For Teh Win.  Therapy.

Claremore, OK was my town of choice because some very vocal, very determined fans there totally made it happen.  Huge thanks to those who drove in from farther afield to hear the show!  I played in a gazebo, which turned out not to have any electricity — oops!  But then I suddenly remembered what old gazebos were designed FOR.  Not wedding photos — amplification.  Brian and I stood right in the sweet spot and my voice resonated all the way across the park.  No amplification needed!  It was so much fun to sing unplugged without damaging the voice (much).  A magical night.  Did some interviews with the next day in Tulsa, which you can see here.

Photos from this stretch coming to Flickr shortly, when I have more internets.  Again, if you took photos, put the link in the comments!  If you remember a specific moment, please record your impressions here!  The preserving of memories on this trip is a little urgent in my mind, and it’s also more than I can manage without your help.

Love to each, and hope to see you again soon,

Marian Call



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  1. Honestly THE best concert I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing. Hearing your stories was just as much fun as listening to you sing. And as for no electricity, I just saw it as a happy accident. Tee hee.

  2. I’m from north of Cincinnati but saw Marian at Lizard’s Liquid Lounge in Irving Park. For years it was “The Lost and Found” and held the distinction of being Chicago’s oldest lesbian bar. That particular night it was filled with a big birthday party for the normal clientele, lots of rabid Blackhawks fans and a decent group of Marian fans.

    We arrived about 8:30, grabbed some of Liz’s excellent tapped brews and found Marian trapped between the pool table (covered with steaming trays of Chicago fare) and the wall. She had a phalanx of folks blocking her way out, but I caught her eye and she gracefully extricated herself and came out to greet us. She chatted for about 10 minutes; a lovely and interesting girl with a quick wit.

    We grabbed some seats up front near the typewriter and shared our attention between the hockey and the locals. It didn’t take long before we had Liz bringing another pair of Oberon with only a slight hand gesture. After the ‘Hawks took game one, Marian was finally able to start her set.

    It was a wonderful show. Not only was she excellent, but the dynamic between her and Bryan Ray was cool to watch. He hadn’t even heard some of the songs she pulled out, but her simple key notations above each word on her lyric sheets were enough to guide him. My wife plays guitar so she was telling me how they were working it all out and the result was fabulous. Intimate is not a strong enough word for the setting. We could literally reach out and touch them as they played (had we needed to I guess).

    After the show we stole a poster which Marian autographed. I also got an autographed copy of “Vanilla” which now lives in my iPhone and iPad. I was impressed enough with her that I’m hoping to put on a house concert when she graces Ohio. If she’s anywhere near you do make an effort to see a 49->50 show.

  3. I was at the same Chicago show. I remember being able to say to Marian that I’ve been stalking her online for months, and neither she nor my girlfriend flinched at this statement.

  4. Will post thoughts too, but pics I took from Indy are here:

  5. What can I say? A good hang at the pub in OKC. Truly a pleasure. Let’s all do it again sometime.

  6. Well, seeing you in Dallas was my second time seeing you. Loved it even more than the first. You are amazing. We even brought our out of town guests with us, and they loved you too. Even Josh and Beth’s baby Peter loved you!


    Here are the photos of the concert from Claremore :)

    BTW, one of the best concerts I’ve been to!! Thank you again for coming, and don’t be a stranger!!


    there that should work better, i hope!

  9. GAH! This isn’t working.. Since we’re friends on FB, you can find the pictures in the album that I made :)

    Hannah Puryear

  10. So bummed I missed you in KC. I’d been looking forward to it ever since I saw the tour date on your website, but I had to go out of town at the last minute.

    Glad you had a good time in the Midwest—hope this means you’ll be back some day and I can see you play.


  11. The Chicago show was fantastic! Marian mentioned waiting 90 minutes to start the show, but what a great time was had then. Marian geeked out with her friends and fans, making introductions between groups and creating friendships along the way. She talked costuming with Katie, was positively giddy hearing Owen’s stories of working with particle accelerators, and loved my ISS spotting. When the game finally ended most of the crowd went home, and maybe a dozen or two people stayed behind to listen. We grabbed every free chair in the place and formed a tight semi-circle, backs to the bar, and listened.

    Marian played for maybe an hour an a half, with plenty of songs from Vanilla, only a couple from Got to Fly, and several from her new album. She was playing with Bryan for the first time, though you could hardly tell. He even played ‘West of the Mountains’ totally unpracticed (and maybe unlistened-too) on request.

    What really will cement the day in my mind is what happened after the show. Marian stuck around for perhaps two hours, mingling and slowly getting her stuff packed together. After a while there were only a half dozen of us having a grand old time. Zippy came out, as did the Jayne hat. Photos were taken by all, including some taken by Marian herself. Plans were hatched for a return to Chicago to do a show with Marian’s songs and Javier’s and my photography. Marian gave a tremendously thoughtful gift – probably shouldn’t say what, but it was awesome – to one of her great fans, and it seemed to make his year. Really, can anyone be more excited than Jack was? The look on his face, his shock and joy were priceless. We carried all her gear out to her car, where every bit had it’s perfect space and it all fit just so, and she finally left at perhaps 2 am.

  12. Considering all the trouble Hannah has been having, I almost hesitate to post my Facebook album. It’s set for open access.!/album.php? aid=2031467&id=1563797593

    710 miles, and so worth it!

  13. Other than Tanner introducing me as “Heather” [which I still give him a hard time about lol], memory-wise I just loved the closeness we all had in the gazebo, and the “happy accident” of having no electricity. I believe it made the whole experience a lot more memorable and just an all around fun experience.

  14. I was one of those Kansas City few. Thank you so much for the aftershow performance of “It Was Good For You Too”. Had we known your desire for beer and board games, we would’ve provided you with the best local beer you’ve never had (Kansas City’s Boulevard Wheat) and a round of, at the very least, Bananagrams.

  15. The setting for the Kansas City show was the epitome of an indie performance. The opening act wasn’t too bad, but they had mastered the art of maxing out their amps. Hence, I had the unimaginable pleasure of doing part of that Art Walk with the pretty lady I had traveled to see; left Bryan to take care of business. And what a business it was! Kudos for toughing out the humidity.

    I’m taking that fifth paragraph comment about being the only one at the show as a personal nod. I wish I could have stayed later to enjoy the nightlife. You wouldn’t have been the only one suffering acute social anxiety.

  16. I had the delightful opportunity to host a private house concert in Edmonton on May 19, the night before her public house concert here. It was a very small and casual get together in my living room. This was my first house concert, and I had a blast! Marian is generous with her time and her talent.

    Thanks, Marian, for running out to the car to fetch the notation for “Southside Open Mic” when I asked to hear it. (Who knew that didn’t get requested often?)

    Thanks for sharing beer and appies and a lovely spring evening with us. Can’t wait for the return leg of your tour when you pass through Edmonton again!

  17. Just a couple photos from your Iowa house concert!

    Marian Call

    Thanks again so much for coming our way and noticing our landscape’s beauty. :-) I am always impressed with people who take the time to see instead of dismissing it.

  18. Well, if I can put together some sort of house concert here in NC the next time you’re over this way, I’ll see to it that you not only leave with good memories and pictures, but a few bottles of wine from NC’s Yadkin Valley. And don’t worry. This won’t be the swill from Childress, Shelton, or Biltmore. This will be the good stuff.

    By the by… When will you be out this way?

  19. I was at the Des Moines, IA concert in June with my husband Andy, and I also went to the Omaha, NE house concert with my best friend JB. You were amazing to watch at both concerts, and I am thrilled to have seen you in both a theater venue and a backyard informal setting. My photos are up on Facebook, and I’m talking you up to everyone I know!

    Thank you so much for undertaking such a massive effort in touring the country and sharing your incredible talent in such a personal way. And the next time you tour the Midwest, I would like to book you NOW for a concert in Fort Dodge, IA. I’ll host if you’ll sing!

  20. Here are some pictures from Marian’s stop @ Star Clipper Comics in St. Louis:

  21. We met in Saugatuck, MI at the Uncommon Grounds Cafe on May 30th. Not realizing how crazy the traffic & parking would be in a small town on Memorial Day weekend, I was a song or two late. When I arrived, you were singing “Dark Dark Eyes.” I tried to be as quiet as possible, as I found a spot for myself, & my wheelchair. You saw me immediately, with recognition in your eyes. The show was great! I didn’t want the night to frakkin’ end! :) Honestly, meeting you was the highlight of the year for me.

  22. […] Places I never meant to go, in which I apologize to the Midwest and Heartland states, IL, MI, IN, IA, MO, KS, OK […]

  23. Ok, since you want this yearbook-like, here we go:

    I’m soooo glad that you were able to do a gig in IN!! It seems like you weren’t expecting many of us Hoosiers to show up, but it looks like we surprised you! YAY! I still remember you telling us (during a song, no less!) to let people know to get a chair from inside & set up (in case they came during a song & you couldn’t tell them). I think we may have let you down on that one, but I think we just didn’t want to interrupt your awesome singing!

    You did a great show & it was wonderful to get to meet you. I hope next time (wishful thinking, right?) you’re here, I’ll remember to get a pic of Zippy & Madeleine. Special thanks for doing Princess Cupcake!! I will always fondly remember when you intro’d the song, how excited I got.

    Thanks again for everything!! :)

  24. Don’t know if you blogged about your return to Mi. or not, but the October show you did in Ferndale was frakkin’ awesome.
    Thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and the Cheesecake fudge Bryan got from the candy store next door.
    Hopefully we can hook up again somewhere in your travels.

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