A TALE OF TWO CITIES
it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
too late for some things now, for me, anyway .. .
and it’s only nature’s way.
i have been relatively low volume about the shout
for all things giant sand, these last 2 or 3 decades, which is just my speed .. .
that tucson tends to breed.
it’s a city that wants to be smaller
as opposed to one that wants to be larger.
- - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
october 3 2008 phoenix, almost
sunset now begins the holiest day of the ancient hebrew calendar year of 5769. we should be heading up to phoenix for our show .. . but i cancelled it there.
it never feels right to cancel, but nothing feels 100% these days. phoenix has had the crinkled rep of being difficult for touring bands to love, and in all the decades decayed we have played there, the attendance has been shy. hard to really ever know why, but conclusions tend to just walk in here without knocking and settle in.
now in the last 10 years or so i have really admired the promoter up there. just the sound of his voice is a relief. the last time we played there, might just be the last we play there. was about 4 years back and the darkest venue i had ever seen. i am pretty sure no one showed up for our show but it’s impossible to tell cause it was so black in there. supposedly i met lonna kelley there.
but, man, it was pitch.
it was one of those shows where ya feel so bad for the promoter trying so hard to make us happy, but at the same time us feeling so uncomfortable that he lost money on the ordeal.
that was the first show on our US tour in 2004.
the next morning we headed to our next gig which was just down the road and further back in time: pappy and harriet’s pioneertown palace up in joshua tree california.
i lived there from the late 80s till the early 90s and it was going to be thick with the best memories of my life.
it just used to be my camelot.
the danes were stoked and the ride through the desert shook off the crust of the black phoenix venue and its deep void. but pioneertown was also stained in the sadness of the great loss of pappy alan back in ‘93.
i loved pappy. he toured and recorded with us when he was 75 back then.
such a stunning human.
but back to the point …
the difficulty of phoenix lies in all the big city tangle attached and the 4 hour drive up and back. it’s absolutely famous for their traffic snarl around here and the extra 5 degrees of heat.
there’s no rivalry between the towns because of the severe slant of lifestyles. big city versus small city.
but we fool ourselves into thinking it’s a small town here. but if you live downtown in the old barrios and bike everywhere, it’s a lie you can believe in.
i remember when i was 19 hitching around the southwest. it was 1975 and i had hitched from berkley california after hitching all the way up there with my buddy keith to ask neil young for a job playing piano.
but that’s another story.
so here i was heading home to tucson and got stuck in phoenix. it took 3 rides just to get from north of town to the south side on baseline. i waited there 8 hours and kept hanging out in the waffle house when i would et tired of the lonesome on ramp.
it was getting so late so i headed out one more time to give it a shot at the on ramp and took out my fiddle to play in the nothingness.
with the first burst of jagged non-notes, the bushes next to me rustled and some big bearded well stained fellow who lived inside that bush erupted on me stating that he had staked his claim there first and foremost.
he was very upset.
i left him to his real estate and wondered if he got stuck hitching there years ago.
that was my first taste of phoenix.
today we were meant to play a sweet place with a wonderful vibe and i could not even muster the get up and go to go and get up there.
they tempted me with the notion that it was the first friday of the month which meant 10,000 people would be down there doing the “art walk” downtown, but that only sounded like more of a nightmare and crippled with traffic.
they said they had 40 pre sales tickets, and i began to just stare off at my kids in the room and figured them into an evening of snuggle instead.
i suppose i had simply gotten about 12 minutes too old for heading up there like this now. something felt wrong about it and i would never know why until it would be too late.
it was the same vibe i had about not doing the “in store” in dallas the other day. everyone connected with the idea explained how it made sense and surely how wonderful it would be.
but the old man that has taken over my body seemed to know better then all that enforced glee. in the end i opted to go with the sweet younger folks who genuinely believed in their own zip and display of certitude.
now brothers and sisters, let me tell you, only about 12 folks showed up at that “in-store”. plus, they had planned on filming it. now what sense would it make to film an “in-store” audience of 12 ?
to permanently remind us of the folly ?
their explanations were forthcoming about the dallas cowboy game starting at the same exact time and how they were on an unforeseen winning streak, and there was the speculation that the 3 day austin city limits festival might have stole a chunk of folks away too.
but they are not left to live with the bottom line and i don’t wanna remind them what the road to hell is paved with.
i only have so many gigs left in me. it’s not a morbid thought, its just more precise then any younger guestimater.
to extend the amount of miles left in these bones will lie in the prowess of making “decent” choices that rely on the flavor of instinct that the stench of experience serves up as steady foundation.
paper work should ever only be an endearing attempt at facilitating those folks who have a tendency to freak out over a paperless existence. but it should not be there to ride shot gun over the accumulation of acquired knowledge
maybe i have said too much.
but i am not a rogue in this reasoning. i don’t know why so many touring bands have a problem with playing there. could be the city is just not built for it.
they have had a great bevy of escaping bands like lee hazlewood, duane eddy, alice cooper, stevie nicks, meat puppets, gin blossoms, jimmy eat world and lonna kelley.
but tucson always had a different take on things .. .
way more removed and less conventional, eventually more conducive for touring bands to feel at home and home bands to tour eventually.
it is way less ambitious here too and that’s probably the most significant difference. i am the most un-ambitious person i know and have so happily settled in these comfortable confines where laziness is an art and not a problem.
anyhow .. . to conclude, albeit regrettably … . .
i have been playing phoenix for 28 years now, and why there is no substantial following up there is more a matter of criteria for how people want to live their lives then anything else. there is no more time for me to beat my head against the wall in anticipated market gains.
and it’s a lot like LA that way .. same slight audience turn out for us and same traffic load.
its really ok.
had the sadness this morning after my canceling fever.
word spread up there, i hear, when a local record store owner up there, agitated over the audacity of my canceling, retaliated with a statement like: “why does giant sand not want to properly promote their new record here in phoenix ? well, if they don’t care about it then why should we carry their records anymore?”
that phoenix fellow has a point, and it almost makes sense .. .
but only on paper.