Road Awakening Recap

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Singer Mali here.  we had so much fun on the Road Awakening tour that i want to tell you all about it.

we had not toured in something like two years.  we rented a 12-passenger van on blind faith that all five of us, and our stuff, would fit.  luckily, we did.  this is how the van looked at the beginning of the tour:

i did not take a picture of it at the end, when this carefully packed Tetris masterpiece (with room for the driver to see out of the back, note) turned into more of a free-for-all. you would've been ashamed.

Day One: June 22nd, New York City

first day of tour definitely snuck up on me ~ i felt woefully unprepared.  during the heat-wave week preceding our departure, i had become obsessed with the making of our T-shirts to the exclusion of much else.  it took us 6 hours to get from Boston to New York.  we had anticipated as much, so we actually arrived early, staying true to our Daniel-proclaimed moniker of the Most Punctual Band In Show Business.  here are a couple of photos from that first ride.  petaluma was eating gluten-free delights at the time, and didn’t want to show her face.  Tony did 99% of the driving, and never lost his cool (bet ya didn’t know he had those tattoos, now did ya?):

Jaggery actually formed in New York ~ i lived there for six and a half years, until 2008.  it’s always fascinating for me to visit ~ oscillating emotions battle one another in my head and heart.  kind of like visiting a former lover, and remembering our time together ~ a sort of wistfullness, a longing, getting hit with how much potential there was, potential for this endless wild maniacal exciting everything-at-your-fingertips to-the-second-power sort of existence, but then remembering too the feeling of never really feeling appreciated, or a part of.  (wow, i just realized i closely relived that with an actual person soon after moving to Boston.  blog epiphany!)

we played The Living Room that night (Lower East Side/East Village area) in between warm summer thunder showers, with Not Waving But Drowning, a NY band who is fronted by a self-taught multi-instrumentalist named Pinky, as well as a fellow who used to live in the same loft as myself in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  they call themselves ‘a junkyard cabaret’ and their joy-filled noise needs to come to Boston and/or an Org ASAP.  while we fiddled around w/ our T-shirts, and prepared for our first set of the tour, these guys phonofiddled and stomped above.  here is myself, Petaluma, and Rachel, fiddling with T-shirts:

here is Pinky and the gang.  she’s saw-ing at the moment ~ the phonofiddle is by her feet:

photo: Laurel Frazier

The Living Room is a lovely, listening room, with a baby grand, and an always-no-cover policy.  it was a beautiful first night of tour, and we felt the New York love like we never have before:

photo: Ryan Anas

after our set, Rachel, Petaluma and i proceeded into the bar area, where the instant-photo booth turned us into giggling school girls on a mission for a skincare endorsement:

that night we drove to NJ to stay at Petaluma’s apartment, and noted the rainbow colored lights of the Empire State Building, in honor of Pride.  we slept long and hard at Petaluma’s place ~ the last time we’ll ever see it, as she moves to Cambridge this month!!!  while some of us were still sleeping thru the late morning, the landlord barged in with a couple who wanted to see it.  it was awkward.  later i bumped into the same couple at the local coffee shop, and the bohemian disarray had not deterred them ~ they’d put their deposit down.

Day Two: June 23rd, Bethlehem, PA

we had a very short drive to our next destination ~ Bethlehem, PA.   first off we found a fantastic restaurant called Horns that served drinks in ball jars, had a dark wood interior, and whose local-and-fresh emphasized menu utterly hit the spot.  as evening approached, we made our way to the art-space where we would be playing with our buddies This Way To The Egress and A Bear, who set the show up for us.

the space was amazing.  here is Petaluma trying to tune her harp amidst sweltering but visually inspiring conditions:

here’s Rachel and Daniel, later on:

what's that lightsaber doing under rachel's arm?

we stayed at Taylor (of Egress) ‘s parents place, and ogled Egress’s fantastic 15-person van:

Sarah and Taylor, who head Egress, are on the top end of my list of All-Around Awesome Musician Friends.  i love these two.  the folks from A Bear were also exceptionally awesome.  i wish these folks lived closer to Boston.

Day Three: June 24th, Baltimore, MD

Day Three was another short drive, to Baltimore.  first stop: WLOY, Loyola University’s radio station.  we chatted with DJ Christopher Sweeney about all sorts of stuff ~ he recorded our show later that night, and we will post the combined links/archive when they’re up.  here are some photos:

we hung around in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore for a few hours.  i got a kale salad dropped on my foot at a local cafe, and then got another salad for free b/c of it. was a good thing we ate earlier, b/c the venue, The Windup Space, was in a no-food zone, at least on a Sunday night.

this was the musical highlight night of the tour for me.  The Windup Space is a beautiful spot, with excellent sound.  the opening band, Three Red Crowns, blew me away: intricate mainly-instrumental Steve Reich-ish compositions with conversational interplay between violins, cello, and saxophone.  headliners Yeveto saturated my synapses with trance-inducing tribal-esque “crespuscular” sounds bringing to mind the Blue Man Group band, in their heavier moments.

that night, we stayed with local Baltimore musician Letitia Vansant, and her awesome pitbull, Champ, who curled up in bed with petaluma.  we made ourselves so much at home there, that later on we realized we hadn’t idiot-checked our departure, and had left a few things behind in Baltimore. a word to the wise: never EVER forego the idiot check!

Day Four: June 25th, Washington, DC

lucky us, we had another very short drive to our nation’s capital ~ and Rachel’s hometown ~ the following day, where we played The Red Palace.  we had played this venue during our last tour (with our friends, and Rachel’s other band, Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys) and it had been revamped, revealing a larger stage and performance area (and less focus on the ‘museum of oddities’ theme of the previous Palace of Wonders). this night we were afforded the one-and-only sound-check we received for the entire tour.  we played with post-orchestral rockers Strange Victories and the experimental and improvisational Parsons de Lautreamont’s Uncanny Orchestra. we also got a  review where we were described as “Requiem for a Dream dreamy” (we’ll take it) ~ you can read the full review here.

here are some photos from that night:

photo: Marie Formica / Brightest Young Things
photo: Marie Formica/Brightest Young Things
photo: Marie Formica/Brightest Young Things

as if the night couldn’t get any better, after the show we were invited to an absolutely exceptional bar ~ Church & State ~ a few doors down by friends of Rachel who happened to own it.  it was closed, but they opened it just for us, and mixed us drinks made only from small batch U.S.-sourced ingredients while we gasped at delight at the beautiful decorations ~ all foraged from churches.  in case you didn’t know, i have a thing for churches.  this place was heavenly (tee hee)  we went a little nuts when we found out there were confessionals in the back:

we planned to come back next time we were in DC and do a proper photo shoot.  the place was gorgeous, and the drinks matched the decor.

that night we stayed at Rachel’s moms place outside of DC and got to fawn over little-kid pictures of Rachel.  but sleep was short ~ we had our Long Run the following day:

Day Five: June 26th, Jamestown, NY

first on the agenda was to head back to Baltimore to retrieve the stuff we’d left behind.  then we spent ten, count’em TEN, hours in the van, from 9am to 7pm, when we finally arrived in Jamestown, where we were scheduled to play TWO shows.  yikes.  here is a shot from somewhere along the route:

i didn't take a lot of pictures that day due to general exhaustion and impending delirium.

Jamestown is right outside of Lakewood, where Tony lived for many years in a cottage on a lake.  we’ve spent a bunch of time there over the years, and played Jamestown last time we were on the road.  we first arrived at Labyrinth Press Co, the local coffee and sandwich shop, with a stage in the back.  this place has delicious, rich coconut milk lattes, and thick green, sweet smoothies.  our friend Jeremy, who was opening for us on accordion and percussion, was already there, as we tumbled out of the van and tried out our stiffened limbs.  we played a pared-down set (just ca’hon, not full drum kit) to a crowd of under 21-ers, who wouldn’t be able to get into our later show, which was directly afterwards and a couple of streets down, at Mojo’s.

Mojo’s makes me very happy, but even the warm and welcoming vibe, and the stage smoke during our set couldn’t overcome the physical exhaustion and vocal fatigue i began experiencing that night.  i was relieved when that day was over.  never will i do two shows in one day again!  (though Tony says he’s heard me say that before).

Day Six: June 27th, Toronto, ON …. actually, scratch that: Buffalo, NY

the next morning, after our traditional breakfast journey to Wegmans, we made our way towards Toronto, for a show with the haunting Clara Engel at The Boat.  Twas not to be.  We were DENIED ENTRY into Canada ~ told by the humourless guard that legally U.S. bands were not allowed to play an establishment like The Boat, which is not a proper “concert venue” but is more of a restaurant and/or bar.  apparently, by playing our show, we would be taking away opportunities from Canadian bands.  i had thought i had the proper paperwork for avoiding such a debacle, but apparently not.  later, a different guard was incredibly sweet and apologetic and told us we didn’t do anything wrong. Rachel tried to give him a CD, but he told us he couldn’t take it as it might look like bribing.  but he did take a sticker.

we headed back to Buffalo, with heavy hearts:

we began a concerted effort to find a show in Buffalo, and basically began knocking on venue doors.  we were all hungry and rachel and petaluma looked up food places on rachel’s iPad (which was definitely the star of this tour ~ helping us out immeasurably on a daily basis).  the first place that came up was Merge, a vegan-friendly restaurant that also had live music, which friends had told me about when i was planning the tour.  in fact, i had been in touch w/ Merge about doing a show, but the dates hadn’t worked out.  we traipsed over to Delaware Avenue and began our solicitation.  unbelievably, the free jazz duo scheduled that night had cancelled.  the night was ours!

after what was probably the best meal of tour, we set up.  we had to run our own sound (or rather, Tony ran our sound), and we needed to keep the volume on the low side, as we were essentially providing backdrop to dinner patrons.  we did what we could promotion-wise, announcing on Facebook and Twitter the new show info.  Jeremy, who played with us in Jamestown, lives in Buffalo, and he came down with a bunch of his friends.  to a small, but rapt audience, we played an extended semi-acoustic set.  our ‘monitors’ were our own ears, hearing ourselves live and acoustically.  i learned a ton about how i sing through this show ~ bad habits, as well as good.  one audience member bought us two bottles of wine and talked Zen with us after the show.

as a control freak, i don’t allow for much spontaneity in my life, and to have such a positive spontaneous outcome out of what was really a shitty situation was pretty sweet.  Daniel agreed:

we drove back to Tony’s old cottage in Lakewood that night, gaped at the stars, and slept by the lake.

Day Seven:  June 28th, Binghamton, NY

all that wine and good times resulted in us yet again not doing an idiot check, and when we woke up on Thursday, we soon realized we’d left our remaining merch at Merge.  it was awfully convenient actually, as we were all too happy to go back there for lunch.  but man.

after lunch in Buffalo, we headed to Binghamton ~ a mountainous journey with stunning views.  we arrived at the hoppin’ Lost Dog Cafe, an expanding restaurant, bar/lounge, and now performance space ~ part of which was a former hair salon.  street view:

wall in performance area:

get it? lost dogs!

we had no idea what to expect, but were reassured by the message on the bathroom wall:

quickly, it became apparent we were in good hands ~ the head bartender, Sage, welcomed us, letting us know “if you need anything, ANYthing at all, just yell ‘SAGE!’ ~ feel free to use the mic.”  the free dinner was EXCELLENT ~ big, hearty portions, and exquisite food with plenty of gluten-free and vegan options for the predominantly choosy Jaggery palette.  we had been given a monster 3 hour set, and as were setting up, we decided the plan would be to play our entire discography in chronological order.  however, once the show began, we abandoned this idea as we quickly realized that we would need more than 3 hours for that, so we just picked our favourites from each album.  the room filled with folks who came specifically because they’d heard there would be live music ~ a new thing at Lost Dog (apparently we were the second or third band to christen the space).  the audience was one of the most supportive of the tours ~ buying us almost out of T-shirts and CDs.  (one fellow bought all our CDs before we even played. a harp can do that for you.)  Lost Dog treated us both like royalty and like family.  after the monster set, we hung out with the staff and locals and learned about the history of the place, and the fine, hard-working and beautifully-spirited women who run it.

later that evening, the dream continued ~ we had arranged to stay with the parents of a friend of ours. we arrived well after they’d turned in, to find new toothbrushes placed carefully on each of our designated pillows, and a hand-drawn map of the house.   the next morning we were treated to a lavish pancake breakfast, as though we were in a b & b.  the kindness of strangers awed me.

Day Eight: June 29th, Providence, RI

things get a little fuzzy for me here ~ the ongoing lack of sleep, the relentless heat, and the awareness of the finish line has made my memory not as sharp for this day.  (also, this blog has gotten way too long.  congratulations if you’ve read this far.)  after coffee at a very cool spot (White Electric), we arrived at Firehouse 13 ~ a former firehouse-turned-music-venue. we had an absolutely delicious dinner at Jillian’s (i want to go here on my birthday ~ it was that good.  this was the best-eating tour any of us could have imagined).  Allysen Callery and her band, Night Kitchen, opened the evening with delicate, haunting experimental-ish folk (Snow Pony is my favorite song of hers).  Alec K Redfearn, and two of his Eyesores, played next ~ accordion, keyboards, and upright bass.  next was us.  i had fun going a little crazy during No Sympathy, and i ended up covered in bruises, with a bunged-up knee later on.  it was a blast.  the headliners, Daniel Oullette and the Shobijin, have to be seen to be believed ~ i will not even attempt words.  at one point they passed out little plastic dinosaurs and mustaches.  this is how that night ended:

we drove back to Boston after the show, unpacking the van and falling in a heap into my apartment. Petaluma and i didn’t get to bed until the sun was coming up.  the next day was a no-gig day, in preparation for the final show.

Last Day:  July 1st, Somerville, MA

tour would not have been complete without the Monster Masquerade.  this show was a long time in the coming.  as some of you know, it was originally scheduled for a different venue for the night previous, but due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to change it somewhat suddenly.  Somerville’s relatively new venue, Radio, saved the day, offering us the night and going above and beyond the typical rock venue, catering to our every request.  what could have been a really bad situation turned into a glorious, festive, celebratory homecoming show.  this is how happy Daniel and Tony were, en route to Radio:

we played with two of our most favorite Boston bands ~ the frighteningly outstanding Bent Knee and the incomparable, doom-folk carnival that is Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys.

pictures were taken:

photo: Rachel Leah Blumenthal

instruments were exchanged:

photo: Rachel Leah Blumenthal

toasts were made:

photo: Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Rachel rapped like Rob Base (and those are real antlers around her waist):

photo: Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Petaluma wore cookie monster eyes in her hair:

photo: Rachel Leah Blumenthal

i left lipstick marks on my favorite masked monster:

& the unreasonably gifted Kristilyn Stevenson painted:

yes, that's Tony with an electric bass. he played no less than four different instruments for this show ~ upright, electric, accordion, and sintir. he also rapped like Rob Base.

then it was over.



i wrote all of this to process it somewhat for myself ~ it’s so easy to return and just hit the ground running, immediately getting caught up in what’s next on the agenda.  i wanted to take a moment to reflect on what was really a special experience.  i also thought sharing the experience might prove interesting for fellow bands, as well as friends and fans. most of all, i wanted to express my gratitude:  to my unreasonably dedicated, exceptional bandmates, to the bands we played with, the venues we played, and the many strangers who became our friends during this entirely non-rude awakening tour.  i know i felt quite blessed on this tour, and i am so grateful to all of you who made it so.

i, for one, cannot wait to do it again.  however, this was daniel’s reaction to that proposition:

just kidding

we can’t wait to see you all again.  keep in touch to find out when, and where, that will be.

love to all, Singer Mali