TLFB Tours The West! – A Little Visit with Peter the Chair LeClair

It’s Sunday August 3rd. The last few days have been a blur. We are currently on the road again driving from Rhododendron, Oregon to Bellingham, Washington to load in and sound check at Wild Buffalo where we will be opening for our friend Gregory Alan Isakov – so these next two posts will serve as a quick recap of the last few days:

 

We left the Oregon Trail Interpretative Museum on Thursday to stay with our friend and fellow musician Peter The Chair LeClair *queue thunderclaps* in Portland. On the way, we navigated through a scenic bypass along the Columbia River Gorge and briefly visited the majestic Horestail and Multnomah Falls – the tallest falls in Oregon.

 

 

Upon arrival in Portland, we were introduced to two beautiful longhaired tabby cats Etta James and Aretha Franklin. We were given a quick tour of the artsy three-level home strewn with instruments in every corner, bookshelves a plenty, and Marüshka-adorned walls. We made it down to his basement that he had retrofitted to be a recording studio.

After catching up with Peter, we loaded in our valuables then headed down to the basement for a “quick” recording session. The thing about these “quick” recording sessions that we often get ourselves into is that they are never quite as quick as we hope. From deciding which tunes to play, how they will be played, setting up the audio, cameras, and lighting, to nailing an acceptable take amongst a room full of our own critical, perfectionist, OCD ears – it takes time, but the music that comes as a result is generally quite beautiful. Check out Peter’s write up on his blog of our stay: TLFB Visits Peter the Chair Studios!

We were….exhausted by the time we arrived at Peter’s, so eventually we hit our limit in his studio. Kyla headed up to bed and Jacob, Peter and I jammed on each other’s tunes for a bit before turning in. Etta J the cat made her way around the house tucking each of us in making sure we were all safe and comfy.
In the morning, we showered, packed up, planned out our day, and drove to Jam for a delicious breakfast. Kyla mentioned to Peter that she wanted to check out the Portland vintage scene a bit before leaving for the wedding rehearsal in a cabin near the base of the majestic Mt. Hood.

 

He took us to a place called House of Vintage. It seemed innocent enough from the outside, but as we ventured in, we soon discovered an endlessly winding labyrinth of vintage treasures. It was tempting to just throw out all of our instruments and load up Patty the Patriot with armfuls of vintage delights. Kyla found a beautiful white dress in perfect condition, Jake found a nice button-up, and I found an old electric keyboard called a Magnus.

Time vanished in the House of Vintage. We rushed back to Peter’s, loaded the car, said farewell and hurried out to putt around in Portland rush-hour traffic…But when times get tough, Kyla gets tougher. Exhibit A to the right: Industrial strength tweazers. Keep Portland Weird!

 

 

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TLFB Tours The West! – An Idaho Surprise | The Oregon Trail

Now, as we are driving through the hills of Oregon on our way from Boise to Portland, I can safely say that Idaho was surprising. We had never really heard anything outstanding about Idaho and we didn’t know what to expect. As we planned our evening while stopped at a rest stop, we decided we should bust out my tent and give camping a go. Kyla and I called around and found a campground and set off in that direction.

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Surrounded by beauty all around, I strapped the GoPro on the roof and captured a drivelapse video of the long cloud-strewn sunset until we came upon a brown sign luring us to Shoshone Falls. We drove over a bridge and the earth beneath us vanished hundreds of feet down into the deepest gorge with colorful stone cliffs on either side with a rushing river between. The sun completed its descent behind the horizon as the three of us stood in silence admiring the natural wonder before us.

 

IMG_000942 (1)We pressed on to Shoshone Falls in soft blue light from the wake of the setting sun. We could hear it before we saw it – the distinct sound of incredible amounts of water careening over a smooth rocky edge, incessantly hammering down and down into the wide river below which flowed and curved off as far as the eye could see. It seemed as though a large amount of the water flow was dammed upstream as the waterfall, while still impressive, was a great deal smaller than it once appeared in images.

 

IMG_2684Jake drove a car full of zonked out band mates to the campground and we drearily set up the tent and blew up air mattresses for a relatively luxurious camping experience save for the obnoxious, penetrating sounds of the nearby highway. We woke up surrounded by a crowd of curious and hungry ducks. We packed everything back into Patty, Kyla’s trusty Jeep Patriot, took showers with hot water (see? luxury camping) and set off for Portland.

 

 

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We just left the Oregon Trail Interpretative Museum, set at the top of a high hill overlooking beautiful Oregon countryside. We were pleasantly surprised with this engaging, information-packed display of a small fraction of American history. Although, I have to say, I am ashamed of our ancestors’ approach to exploration and exploitation of the native habitat.

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TLFB Tours The West! – A Day on the Farm| A Day in Salt Lake City

We drove out to Boulder bright and early to visit the farm. And man oh man, what a gorgeous farm…

 

It’s quiet; calm, with beautiful houses in a communal arrangement with a handful of the most beautiful, massive cottonwood trees interspersed between small flower gardens and benches. The well-tended produce garden, the cheery chickens and sheep, the fire pit, wrought with happy memories and good energy, the woodworking shop covered in a fresh layer of sawdust – this place was a dream. Leaving proved to be quite difficult, so we brought our instruments out and enjoyed the lovely live acoustics of one of the homes on the property for an hour or so before heading back to Denver after a quick lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were aiming to play our music in Provo, Utah, but with the time spent lingering at the farm, our procrastinating goodbyes with our friends Jacob and Abby, and another tornado scare on the road, we ended up passing Provo and headed straight to Salt Lake City to sleep at my second cousin Donna’s beautiful home. Even though it was 1:00 AM local time, Donna greeted us with a smile, open arms, a bag of healthy chocolate chip cookies, and an amazing one-eyed pug named Pirate. We visited for a bit, shared stories and laughs, filled in missing blanks about my family, then headed to the basement where she had prepared our beds.

 

After a hearty breakfast, a load of laundry, a fun introduction to her husband Bruce, and more chatting about music and our upcoming journey out to Washington, Donna advised us where we might find some nice locations for Jacob’s headstand project in downtown SLC. We hugged and headed down into the gorgeous valley surrounded by incredible mountains that we had missed the night before.

 

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Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 8.09.06 PMWe made a pit stop at the beautifully sculpted Salt Lake City public library and grabbed some amazing pictures of the surrounding mountains and some creative shots for Jake’s headstand project. A few breakfast burritos later and a quick stop for SLC thrifting, and we were off towards Boise, Idaho.

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TLFB Tours the West! – We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

The next morning we split up. Matt and Kyla had a hankering for some Denver brewed coffee, so they went to Crema and the Jacobs and I headed to a little place called Hornets for breakfast. Russo led us over to another backyard potluck music gathering organized by a company called Knotty Tie. Amazing arrangements and beautiful harmonies by Poet’s Row and compelling lyrics over some of the sickest, fastest fingerpicking by Anthony Ruptak simply blew. us. away. Afterwards we visited with everyone and met the bass player for Poet’s Row who is also the new bass player for our friend Gregory Alan Isakov. So we told him we would be seeing him in Bellingham in August when we opened for him and Greg. He invited us out to a music gathering happening out at a house in the mountains the next night.

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Back at Patrick’s backyard we watched Ian Cook and Landlines before heading to Russo’s to grab our gear for load-in at Moe’s Barbecue. We ate at an Irish pub then headed down the street to a local church where Poet’s Row gave an energizing performance as a full band. After, we played to a packed house at Moe’s Barbecue and stuck around for the next two sets but we were beat so we headed back to Russo’s for bed.
When we woke up, Russo had already taken Mandolin Matt to the DIA to fly back to Chicago. We stopped at a famous Denver breakfast place called Snooze – it’s not unheard of for customers to wait for more than two hours for Snooze’s infamous specialty pancakes. When the flight of pancakes arrived to our table we realized why…by far the best pancakes in the country hands down and the breakfast burrito was massive.

 

We left Snooze and went on a quest for some Denver landmarks for Jacob to headstand in front of. Jake has an ongoing headstand around the world project. Russo had told us about a giant blue bear statue in the heart of the city so that’s where we headed. We nabbed a few great shots of inverted Jake in front of the big blue bear then headed towards DIA to pick up Russo’s girlfriend Abby. Unexpected plot twist! We stumbled upon an Oscar Meyer Wiener hotdog-shaped truck. Headstanding in front of one of these beautiful wieners was on Jake’s bucket list for a long time because it was one of his late mother’s little joys in life. He saw it as a sign that his mom was looking over him and his friends on our road trip.

 

What happened next was even more incredible and unexpected…

On our way to DIA to pick up Abby, dark clouds started brewing overhead; BIG dark clouds…Jake started seeing lightning in front of the car and off to the right of the car, then Kyla noticed it too. I looked out to the right and tried to get some slow-motion video of the lightning but didn’t see any. I asked the car, “Didn’t you say there was lightning off to the right? I don’t see any!” Jake replied, “Only losers look for lightning on the right side of the car!” I asked, “Wait, didn’t you say you saw lightning on the right side of the car?” Jake yelled, “YES! …wait….NO!” and the car erupted in laughter.

Moments later Jake noticed what appeared to be smoke from a fire rising from the ground off toward the horizon on the left side of the car. He asked if that was a tornado and Kyla and I brushed off the idea. 30 seconds later Jake yells, “ER-MUR-GERD! It’s a TOUR-NAY-DO!” That hellspun vortex of fury and devastation was the first Tornado each one of us had ever seen in person.

tornadoAs we approached DIA, Jake eyed the rearview mirror and said, “Please tell me that is not another tornado right behind us!” There were now two active tornados. People scrambled, screaming in horror, covering their heads with shields and slicing at the wind with …dragon swords? Really, everyone was calm like tornados and screaming sirens are commonplace. I ran up to the roof to shoot some timelapse video and Jake and Kyla found Abby who, luckily, had landed 20 minutes prior to the tornados touching down.

 

We drove back to Denver. Along the way, Abby told us about her vacation in Florida and about Colorado’s huge construction project – installing a light rail system to connect major cities and the DIA as it is otherwise a sprawling, traffic prone commute. Russo got home from his daily flower delivery job and the band took him and Abby out for a sushi dinner. Kyla and I got the biggest ice cream cones ever, as in, the size of turkey legs, before we elected to turn in and wake up early to visit Greg’s farm instead of heading out to the music gathering out in the mountains.

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TLFB Tours the West! – Nebraska to Denver

This is it – our first big road trip as a band! We’re stopping in Omaha, Denver, Boulder, Salt Lake City, Boise, Portland, Mt. Hood, Bellingham, Seattle, Glacier National Park, and the Badlands and then making our way back to our beloved Chicago. We’ll be traveling through some of the most scenic states in America and our astonishing National Parks for the sake of playing and sharing beautiful music and meeting new friends! We’re writing this first post six days deep into our trip, but we’ll give catch you up to speed.

We made enough from our House of Blues show to cover the gas expenses to travel from Chicago to Washington and back with scheduled festivals, shows, and sightseeing stops along the way. We had every intention of leaving Chicago by 10:00 AM on Thursday, but we grossly underestimated how long it would take us to pack up Patty – Kyla’s trusty Jeep Patriot. We didn’t make it out until 1:30 PM! We had arranged to stop for the night in Omaha, NE to stay the night with our friend’s family. Because of the late start and the notorious Chicago traffic, we sadly missed our chance to play music for our hosts. Nevertheless, we were greeted with open arms and wagging tails into their beautiful home. We ate an excellent meal that was prepared for us, visited and shared stories, and soon enough, it was time to hit the hay.

After waking up and taking a much-needed shower, we aimed to leave Omaha by 10:00 AM but were again set back for over an hour because Patty’s transmission fluid was leaking and causing her to run poorly in the steamy 104-degree day. We used that down time as a chance to catch up on emails and get some future bookings in order. We also utilized the time to chat and reflect on how the band has changed and progressed over the last year and a half.

We left Omaha and drove along a long stretch of I-80 toward Denver. Our lovely, accommodating, and talented friend Jacob Russo offered his home for us to share during the Underground Music Showcase. Per usual, first things coming first, we broke out the instruments and played music for a few hours until everyone passed out from exhaustion.

The next morning, we headed out to UMS to pick up our weekend passes. Along the way, we ran into our friend Julie from the band Miss America who told us to go by our friend Patrick’s backyard concert for some amazing local music. The guys got distracted by giant pigeon head masks in the display of a small shop and Kyla was lured off by the prospect of discovering vintage gems on a thrifting rampage. Matt ran into an old friend from college who joined us as we all made our way to Patrick’s backyard.

After a few really solid sets from some talented groups, we headed over to Paris on the Platte to load our gear in and sound check. We’ve had a wide spectrum of experience with sound equipment and sound guys at different music venues. Brent, the sound guy at Paris was by far the most detail-oriented, talented, and passionate sound guy we’ve ever come across. After having a poor experience with audio staff at what really should have been a top-of-the-line venue, Brent’s attention to detail at this small venue was beyond refreshing. His energy helped us start off our Way Out West tour on the right foot and pull off a really solid set that was well received. We spent some time after the show getting to know our audience and the owner of Paris – really quality folks out here in Denver. We headed home and again passed out playing music with Mr. Russo:

 

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