Places I Meant to Never Go: IL, MI, IN, IA, MO, KS, OK06/22/2010 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 Whedonage.com 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,