On the road with Ravenna Woods: Day 1

Ravenna Woods

Photos and tour update by James Bailey

A short time ago I got a message from Matt Badger. Matt is the drummer for the fantastic Seattle band Ravenna Woods. He asked me if I would ride along with them and chronicle the band’s tour to the annual music festival SXSW in Austin, TX. I couldn’t say no. But the tour that I’ll be documenting for the next two weeks came very close to not happening at all. Exactly one day before we were set to leave, I heard from the band that the tour van we would be taking was no longer an option. My heart sunk for the experiences we were all about to miss out on. Half an hour later, I got the good news that a van was found. The band and I would like to offer our immense gratitude to the MacMillan family for letting us borrow their minivan. Without their help this trip wouldn’t be possible.

Ravenna Woods will be playing a weeks worth of shows on the long trip down to Texas. Our first stop will be in Logan, UT, followed by a few stops in Colorado, New Mexico and coming to an end in Texas’s capital.

I met up with Matt and the other guys, Chris Cunningham (singer/guitarist) and Brantley Duke (percussionist/harmonizer) at Chris’s Queen Anne home. Chris Proff was coming along with us for the big trip. Chris is their sound engineer and the man who partnered up with Cunningham to record their first album as well as the soon to be released EP, “Valley of the Headless Men,” and 8-song recording due out in early May.

After playing a game of band gear Tetris with the van, we set off east.

We drove about an hour to North Bend, WA where we stopped for gas, snacks and some shoes. Chris needed some new kicks and we spotted an outlet mall just across from the gas station.

After making it through a treacherous Snoqualmie pass, the strong winds and snow covered  peaks faded away into the dry sunny landscape of Eastern Washington. After a couple hours of driving we stopped for a quick snack in the tiny town of Toppenish.  We had a few good photo opportunities in the fast food chain and then got back on the road.

As we made our ascent along the winding mountain highway that approached the inlet of  Deadman’s Pass, we switched drivers from Matt to Chris Proff, who the boys affectionately refer to as “Proff” to avoid confusion with Chris Cunningham.

Sitting in the backseat, I developed a strong sense that touring life has changed dramatically since the birth of indie music and the touring musician. We now have GPS, laptops and even some intermittent internet access. The one thing I’m sure that hasn’t changed is the scare of running out of gas.

I was editing photos when I heard from the front seat that we were dangerously low on fuel. Looking outside, there was nothing but semi trucks and darkness. We joked about the name “Deadman’s Pass” to help alleviate some of our worries. The Minivan we were driving had a digital readout showing how many miles we had left until an empty tank. I watched as it dropped from 8 miles, down to 5, down to 0. Our hopes were failing us and just as it looked like we’d have to call AAA or walk unknown miles to the next gas station, we finally spotted one just over the next hill. The van pulled into the station on fumes. We were in the northern tip of Oregon and extremely happy to pay the station attendant who saved us from a most otherwise assuredly stressful night.

We arrived in Boise, ID, around midnight. Found a cheap hotel just off the freeway and brought in all the gear and luggage. Chris and Brantley took out their acoustic instruments and began to practice for the next nights show. I sat there listening and taking photos of the two musical brothers in arms. They began to play a cover of Radiohead’s “Karma Police.” I recorded video of this wonderful event happening (see below).

We stayed up much too late making too many jokes and laughing until our sides hurt. Before we knew it, it was 5 am. We had lost an hour due to the time change of heading east. Stirring with restless energy from the events of our first day, we reluctantly fell asleep soon in order to wake up before noon and hit the road to Utah.

Keep checking back with us in the upcoming days for more stories and photos of our adventures with Ravenna Woods on their SXSW tour.

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