update and photos by James Bailey
Days 4 and 5: Portland to San Francisco
My morning starts with laughter. It’s the beginning of my fourth day with the Anacortes, WA, band The Lonely Forest. I shared a hotel room with guitarist and singer John Van Duesen, drummer Braydn Krueger, and their genius of a merch guy, Jonathan Keane (guitarist of the Seattle band Sea Fever.) The reason for my hysterics is John bouncing like an acrobat from bed to bed in the hotel suite.
Our stomachs empty, we head to downtown Portland to grab a quick bite before starting the long expedition to San Francisco. It’s Sunday morning and we were able to find a parking spot big enough for the van and trailer with ease. After trying the overcrowded brunch favorite, Mothers Bistro, we found a place that would be able to handle seating all seven of us: The Morning Star Cafe. We had a delicious meal consisting mostly of breakfast burritos and Bloody Mary’s that were loaded with vegetables (don’t worry, only for those of us who didn’t have to drive).
We made our way to the van and said our goodbye’s to guitarist Tony Ruland’s fiancé, Kelly. She had driven down with us to come to the Portland show, but had to head back up north so she wouldn’t miss class on Monday. The boys and I piled in and promptly found the most comfortable seats to begin the two day trip to California.
The first stop we made was at a rest area about a hundred miles south of Oregon’s largest city. There was a large empty green field that I thought would make a nice background for some casual band promo shots. I gathered the band and quickly set them up against the grey skyline. John pulled out a small pocketknife, which I asked him to show off to the camera. He held it in the air as I took a few posed frames of film and a couple with my digital before returning on our voyage.
The next stop was a gas station in a small town where we found the now illegal (in WA) and contradictory Four Loko “energy beer.” Braydn and I momentarily thought about each buying one, then deciding that two intoxicated highly caffeinated guys on a road trip, in a confined moving vehicle, probably wasn’t the best of ideas.
We drove til around midnight, stopping for dinner in Medford, OR at a franchise burger place, and eventually ended up for the night in Redding, CA.
The beginning of my last day with the band has Tony and bassist Eric Sturgeon in the front seats. Braydn’s laptop is plugged into the stereo. We’re listening to the bands newest song mixes from their forthcoming Trans Records release Arrows. Trans is the new ingeniously named Atlantic Records imprint (Trans-Atlantic, eh? eh?) of Death Cab For Cutie guitarist, Christopher Walla. The boys are discussing the track list. Playing the songs in different orders. They’re trying to decide which variation gives the best-desired feeling for the recording. They have been receiving new songs steadily over the past few days. Excitingly playing each track the instant it’s e-mailed to them by their Seattle based record mixer, John Goodmanson. It’s an amazing treat to hear these songs for the first time along with the band. To have them point out small audio indulgences made by the band and Walla, who also produced the record. I heard wonderful little things. Such as a short one second background noise of John’s voice, run through a delay pedal and sped up to become indistinguishable as a human voice and end up sounding more like a kids toy laser gun.
On the way to SF we made some pits stops for snacks, coffee and calls to the better half’s. Tony, John and I discussed tattoo’s and how addictive they become.
We arrived at the city by the bay during the golden hour. A delicacy for photographers, it’s the short amount of time just before sunset, that entitles us to the most perfect light that produces long contrasty shadows and warm color tones.
I lived in a town a few miles east of Berkeley three years ago, before moving to Seattle. I’d spent countless nights at the many venues of San Francisco, though I’d only been to Bottom of the Hill once before. I hadn’t walked into the club at the foot of Potrero Hill in a very long time. I remembered it being slightly larger, but no matter how many people came to the show that night, it somehow never felt overcrowded. The all-ages assembly had a very happy feeling to it.
We spent the time before the show simply relaxing since we got there a few hours early. When we first stepped out of the van we met a woman walking her dog, a very rare breed called an Otterhound. She told us there were less than a thousand of them in the world. We asked if she would be opposed to letting us stand with him for a quick photo. She was happy to let us pose with him but that the pup was very camera shy. He was indeed. (Photographs of this will be in the final blog post that will be comprised of the film shots I took on the trip)
After sound check the boys had a photo shoot set up with renowned music photographer Peter Ellenby. He met up with us by the bar and we all went for a walk around the neighborhood. With camera and flash in hand, he photographed them amongst the moving cars, yellow streetlights and warehouses. One of the buildings he pointed out as we walked back was where they make the Independent skateboard trucks that a few of us rode on as teenagers.
We all went upstairs to the greenroom upon our return. There were two gentleman, JC and his photographer Clay, waiting there to do an interview with them for the blog theFIVE10.com. They were asked a few questions about the upcoming album and any other news updates they would share. Clay took them to this great alley, with walls covered in corrugated metal, behind the building for a group photo.
I was on the phone with my girlfriend back home, so I missed most of the local opening band. I did however get to hear them from outside doing a great cover of the classic Weezer song, Susanne. The band goes by the simple name Alright.
As John and the other boys took the stage to set up their gear, I went to visit with Jonathan at the merch table. He had laid out the t-shirts (that glow in the dark!!!) and the new self-titled EP the band had just released back in September. A few minutes later The Lonely Forest had began the last show I’d see them play on this tour.
The end of the night was concluded with Tony channeling Michael J. Fox like at the end of Back To The Future. He collapsed on the stage, full of happiness and adoration for rock music, after being lovingly attacked by John. They had played one of the most energetic sets I’d seen in the past few nights and left me, and the rest of the large crowd, wanting much more.
The rest of the evening was spent sitting backstage conversing with my friends to a live soundtrack provided by tour mates Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.
As all the bands were packing up for the night. Tony and Jon (of SSLYBY) were chatting about effect pedals and the different orders in which they’ve found best to place them in. Soon we all climbed in the van. Braydn entered the address of my hotel into the GPS. I wondered how touring bands ever got to the venue on time, without getting lost, before this beautiful piece of modern technology.
We found my nights stay in the heart of the marina district, just a few blocks from the famous Fisherman’s Wharf. The van pulled up and parked as the guys and I emptied out into the very early morning street to say our goodbye’s. Sad to go on our separate ways, we went through many hugs and good wishes. Before I left them, heading south to their next stop of Los Angeles, Jonathan was kind enough to take a few photos of the five of us.
I’m listening to the KEXP broadcast online as I fall asleep. Fond of the experiences I was lucky enough to share with these guys over the past week, I go home to Seattle tomorrow with a new found appreciation for touring musicians. They continue on to Texas before driving for 40 hours straight, all to make it home in time for thanksgiving with their families. I’m left with a better understanding of the sacrifices they make and a firsthand knowledge of the fun that can be had. It’s hard work for all the bands that crisscross the country and world, typically spending months away from their homes and loved ones, simply to share with us the music that we all love.
I wholeheartedly thank The Lonely Forest for having me come out with them and for playing all those long nights and for making the great music that they do. I wish you an incredible finish to the long tour and a safe trip home.