On the Road With Ravenna Woods: Days 10, 11, 12 and 13

Photos and update by James Bailey

I slept for 15 hours. It was my second day at SXSW and I was feeling a bit better from the flu that I’d contracted on the journey down from Seattle. I was certain that I’d gotten enough rest to make it through the day.

When I stepped out of the van onto 6th street, it seemed every person I saw was carrying an instrument or two. Austin, Texas apparently becomes a city populated entirely of musicians for this one week in March.

Every piece of equipment owned by Ravenna Woods was emptied onto the sidewalk. Someone stayed with the van as we took turns carrying the equipment to the venue, The Stage on 6th. There would be four bands playing at the showcase. Just like the day before, they all happened to be bands of the Seattle area.

A Tacoma, WA band by the name of The Nightgowns were up first. They played some pretty enticing songs with a sound that tips it’s hat to early 80’s British new-wave. I hope to see them play again sometime back home in the North West.

I hadn’t eaten anything the previous day and it was now already well past noon. Deciding that I had to get some food I ventured out into the unknown crowded streets. I found many festival goers wondering around. Some were walking to see the next show while momentarily stopping in one of the many doorways that had live music blasting out. Others were on the same mission as myself. I stumbled upon a pizza place that was quick and cheap, scarfed down most of  a slice then headed back to the venue. I was really looking forward to seeing the next band play, The Tea Cozies.

My tour-mates were up next. As usual, they’d enticed a group of people to the front of the stage to watch the set. A little less frantic than the previous days event, this time they were truly able to show Texas what they had to offer.

The last band of the day was The Hord and the Harem, who must have played for well over an hour. It was a good end to the second showcase I’d attended at SXSW.

Once again we took turns carrying the equipment back to the van. It took a few trips to the parking lot in order to get everything loaded and safely hidden under the blanket in the back. The lot was mostly made up of tour vans full of gear. The SXSW website said they had scheduled more than 1800 bands this year. I can imagine that there were easily hundreds more that came from across the country without anything planned ahead of time. Each one hoping to find a place to play where they can gain some attention.

It was now around 7 o’clock and we were all getting hungry. The boys found a BBQ place but I was craving a southwest snack. After walking a few blocks I found a small semicircle of food trucks parked on a corner. One of them was offering a tofu burrito that sounded delicious and refreshing. I asked for it to-go and walked back to eat with the guys.

As we finished our meal we spotted our good friend, the immensely talented Seattle photographer, Hayley Young walking by. We talked with her and decided to grab a drink somewhere. We came across a bar called One 2 One that had a lovely deck on the roof. The remainder of our night downtown was spent here. Laughing and getting some much needed relaxation. It was nice to be out of the van for more than a day. The past week had been a little rough and it was a joy simply to sit and chat amongst friends (and a few of the funny local drunks). Many Seattle faces came by throughout the night including Colin Richey (from Hey Marseilles), Thomas Hunter (of Wild Orchid Children and Kay Kay), and The Tea Cozies.

Jessi Reed, of The Tea Cozies, was feeling a bit cold in just a T-shirt.

Later in the night Hayley’s friend, Graham Mackenzie came by. He’s in the Portland, OR, band Ages to Ages. I’d seen them play back home a few weeks prior at Colombia City Theater. Apparently they’d been swamped with shows over the past week.

Percussionist Brantley Duke channels his inner Robert Smith

Graham invited us all to come to the house he was staying at for a late night celebration as an end this years SXSW. We made a quick stop at a convenience for some snacks then headed to his place. It was a gorgeous house and the patio was a perfect spot to end the night.

The next morning we started the 2300 mile journey back home. We drove all day, eventually deciding that Texas lasts forever. The hours fading gently into the early morning of Monday, wanting to get home as soon as possible, we kept putting off stopping at a hotel. Saying to each other “We’ll rest for the night at the next town”, “the next town”, “the next town”. Finally we gave in when we came to New Mexico. Two of the guys went in while the rest of us waited in the van. Sneaking into hotels is the first thing you learn on tour. Late at night it seems most front counter attendants don’t care how many people you have. Most don’t ask. But when they do, you say 2.

One of the first images I took after hitting the road home.

26 hours were spent driving. Stopping only for gas, rest rooms and energy drinks. After two weeks on the road we all desperately wanted to get home. Two weeks is nothing compared to the multi-month touring odyssey’s that some of my other friends do. It seems like some of them are on the road more than they’re home. I can’t imagine how hard it is for them to be away for so long, especially bands who have wives and children.

Singer/guitarist Chis Cunningham writing about the experiences we had in White Sands, NM.

We stopped to stretch our legs late at night at this eerie farm silo along the highway.

In Utah we hit another blizzard. This one about 10 times as bad as the one we hit on the way down. This one was a complete white out. We were the only car on the road at 2am and we actually had to slow down to a mere 40mph on the freeway to make it safely over the mountain pass. Once we got to the outskirts of SLC the path was clear and we were able to return to traveling at normal speeds. Most of us fell asleep in the early morning. The guys friend who came with us, Chris Proff, was a pro at powering through the sleepy hour driving. I’d fade in and out of consciousness, waking up momentarily to look at my phone’s GPS to see where we were. Every time I glanced at it we were another hundred miles or so from when I’d last checked.

It was 5:30 when we traded spots and I took the wheel. Most of the trip I’d resided in the back seat, working on this blog, editing photos and video. Now that the tour was over I wanted to get my share of driving in. From boise it was an easy 8 hour drive home. I made the most of it by listening to some of my favorite albums as the boys slowly woke up in turn.

Coming through a tunnel just before the I-90 bridge I switched to the radio. 90.3 FM came through the speakers and I knew I was home.

We pulled up to my West Seattle residence and I tossed my baggage onto the grass. We’re all extraordinarily tired and silly at this point. Chris Proff took this photo of the four of us. Cunningham’s prop is a bottle opener styled like a butterfly knife that he found at a gas station.

I hugged my friends and thanked them for a truly memorable trip. I wish them many more adventurous tours and am truly excited to see what the future holds for these three wonderful gents.

-James Bailey

March 31st, 2011

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