Bert Lams and Tom Griesgraber west coast tour - August/September 2006

September 18, 2006 - Encinitas, CA
After a long 2 day solo drive, I made it home from Seattle last Saturday night. I think total time in the car was something like 23 hours. I was lucky to have plenty of new music to keep me company, thanks to our friends back in LA at DGM (purveyors of all things Fripp, Crimson, Crafty, CGT, and so on.. ). I'm still a bit tired out from the drive, but as I look back over the photos below I can't help but be thankful again. This was one of the most unique trips I think either Bert or I have done, and it was made possible by a lot of great people along the way. So.. something like closing credits to a movie, I'd like to again thank (in order of appearance): Mom, Chuck, Dianne, Sandy, Cecil, Gramma, Amy, Bill, Dawn, Sandy, Bill, Kraig, Phil, Dad, Thomasine, Fr Ron, Ben, Mo, Donella, Bob, Bob, Juli, Darin, Lara, Hanah, Logan, Steve, Regina, Jim, Karen, Sister Florette, Curt, Chris, Igor and everyone else from the Seattle Guitar Circle and anyone I missed along the way!!!

lots of wood
(photo by driver.. shooting without looking)

September 14, 2006 - Seattle, WA
Last night Bert and I played in Seattle in the Seattle Guitar Circle's performance space. Two nights earlier on a day off, we actually saw members of the Circle perform in a show they call Tuning the Air in the same space. Every monday night they put on a free show where the audience actually sits in the middle of the room and the guitarists encircle them. It's a unique experience and a show I highly recommend to anyone who can catch it. For us of course the room was arranged a bit more conventionally.

Another unusual thing about Tuning the Air shows is that it seems audiences instinctively only clap at intermission and after the show. Somehow that habit carried into Bert and my performance, probably since many of the "Tuning" players were in the audience as well as people who have been to their show. For maybe the first half of our show, nobody clapped after pieces! We could tell they liked it, but there was just a constant respectful silence. It was a little strange to tell the truth, definitely not what we're used to. At one point after I played something a little more flashy though, an older man who was obviously not part of the "Tuning" cast couldn't restrain himself anymore though and started clapping while saying to the room "I'm sorry, but (clap clap clap)!!!!" The whole room followed suit and the feel of the show loosened up a bit from there. Later one of the "Tuning" players told me we'd broken through the "Applause barrier!"

The Seattle circle performance space

string art genius

After the show, we were led to a local bar with many of our friends. Actually we went to the same spot Monday night after the "Tuning the Air" show. Apparently it's a tradition for the Tuning shows, as the place has pretty amazing $3 pizzas and salads after 10pm. The waitress on Monday actually knows everyone's names from the group and even remembers their favorite drinks. I think I disappointed her by just asking for water. Oh well.

warming up for the final show! Crafty Seattle friends

Wednesday September 13, 2006 - Border crossing back to the US
Today Bert and I drove back to the US from Canada after playing in Vancouver last night at a house concert. Getting back into the US had a much longer line of traffic, and they confiscated an orange Bert had in the car, but it was otherwise simple. Getting into Canada the day before was a bit trickier. As I've discovered in Switzerland, there's something about musicians that seems to raise a red flag with some borders. It just seems to instantly bring up issues of work permits, import duty on CDs and so on. Coming into Canada we had to talk to I think four different agents over maybe an hour or so. They called our friends in Canada to verify what we were telling them, they printed out the tour schedule from this website (one way to get famous I guess!) and even searched my car to verify that we in fact only had the 70-80 CDs we said we had with us. In the end though there were no problems and we were cleared to go. It's just a good thing we allowed plenty of extra time!

It was great to see my friends Jim and Karen again. They both come from San Diego, but moved to Canada many years ago. Jim is a very good Stick player in his own right, but always happy to help organize things in his neck of the woods. They were once again great hosts. Thanks guys!
The Peace Arch: always open.. just don't bring CD's or oranges The Vancouver stage is set

unauthorized border crossers

September 11, 2006 - Portland, OR
A day off today, and Bert and I are headed to Seattle to see some of our friends play in a show called "Tuning the Air." Last night we were hosted by my friend Darin and his family in a town called Tualatin, just south of Portland. Darin is a teacher and engineer by trade and a Stick player as well, so as one might expect, things were very well organized for the show! His family graciously took us in and his two daughters (13 and 10) even gave up their bedrooms for us. I slept in a room filled with drawings of dragons and cartoonish characters on the walls. Bert got Hello Kitty blankets! The entire family including their dog opted for something of a sleepout in the parent's room. Their home had a lot of great decorations, but most unique I think were a few inscriptions I found on the walls (see below).
Bert's room

photo by "Eugene Jeff" (most of) the Portland audience

Bert Lams: happy performer

Wisdom from Dumbledore

Did Gandalf go to Hogwarts?

September 10, 2006 - Ashland, OR
Great show yesterday! Donella, a friend of Bert's and the CGT who owns a studio in town called Mojo Rising, put together a great evening show for us at a local winery in Talent, OR. Once again we had an amazing setting for a show and another great audience. I really enjoyed walking around Ashland a bit in the morning too. Having only been to Eugene and Portland in Oregon before, Ashland really gave me a nice new take on Oregon.
another great view Talent comes to listen

September 9, 2006 - Ashland, OR
phew... just made it through photos from the past week +. Last night we had a night off and a nice dinner at an outdoor restaurant with Donella our local promoter and her husband. I think we both felt the drive though and we went to bed early and I slept in late. Tonight.. an early show at a winery, then dinner prepared by Donella. I'm told we will will once again have a fantastic view. Better go charge the camera!

September 8, 2006 - Ashland, OR
Bert and I made it across the border into Oregon today, and with a night off, I'm hoping to actually go through some photos for the page. We're staying with a great family we just met who happen to have a lot of fun connections in our respective backgrounds. Bob is a southern CA native like me, and as a musician has played a lot of the same venues over the years. He's also good friends with Stick player Larry Tuttle which was a fun surprise. Both Bob and his wife Juli live in LA for many years too so Bert especially has swapped several stories with them already.

We had a long but gorgeous drive today up 101 from Arcata, to route 199 east to the 5. The 199 snakes along the Smith river which Ben our host in Arcata (and a biology grad student at Humboldt State) told us is the only undammed river in California. He recommended we stop and check out some unusual plants along the road. These "California Pitcher Plants" were well worth stopping for. Growing in a bog, the plants look like something out of a science fiction movie. Apparently they lure small insects in with a nectar, then trap them in their stems. Then (here comes the strange part).. other organisms that live inside the plant's stem eat the bugs. What these organisms produce then is what the plants live off of.

Pitcher plants
There's... soo.. many.. of .. them!

101 N (leaving Arcata)
...and looking south

September 8, 2006 - Arcata, CA
Last night we played a last minute backyard house concert/party. Originally we thought we had something lined up for that night in Yreka, CA but when it didn't get confirmed and there was only about a week left before we got there, Bert wound up asking his friend Ben if he could arrange something. Ben came though like a radical champ (to try to use the local language). He arranged a funky but cool little stage complete with spot lights in his own backyard and invited so many friends that maybe 60 people showed up. They were a wild audience, and about 45 minutes after the end of the show practically demanded that we play again! So.. turning down the volume for the neighbor's sake we did a second short set starting at maybe 10:15pm. When Bert and I went to sleep around 1am, the party was still going on a bit in the house.
Arcata stage
Bert Lams: neighborhood wifi pirate

radical Arcata super champ Ben

September 7, 2006 - Highway 101 driving to Arcata
Beautiful drive today heading towards Arcata, CA with lots of giant redwood trees. We stopped briefly to take a few pictures. The routing on this little tour has been kind enough that we've had time to make little sight seeing stops along our drives. Definitely makes things more fun. Also along the road today, we made a "no choice" gas station stop in the middle on nowhere. $3.50 per gallon vs. the $3.15 or so the general area seems to be at.
L to R: Bert, tree, Tom
Bert Lams: tree hugger

dubious gas in the redwoods

September 7, 2006 - Kelseyville (Clearlake), CA
Last night we played a nice "house concert" in the church hall of my dad's parish in Clearlake, CA. Father Ron Serban was a truly welcoming host and my dad and his wife really helped organize and set things up and even provided some home made wine and snacks for all the audience. It was another very nice intimate evening which once again had some incredible views associated with it (seems to be the theme of this tour). Clearlake is actually the largest freshwater lake entirely contained in California. Mix that with a framing of mountains and there is a wealth of great scenery. Of course, getting to the area means snaking through the same mountains, often on some very windy roads. We had our most grueling drive to get there as well, leaving the music store in Albany (Berkeley area) at about 10pm to drive three hours with the final hour or so being some of the windiest roads I know. It was exhausting, but the reward was waking up to a gorgeous sunrise the next morning.
house view in Clearlake, CA
house view pt 2

the audience arrives - Clearlake, CA

September 5, 2006 - Albany, CA (near Berkeley/San Francisco)
After a day off yesterday, we played in a music store today in Albany. It was a fun gig, and I felt more modern than ever as the store specializes in "early music" instruments like recorders and harpiscords. Phil, the owner of the store, took good care of us and was a very cheerful person to work with. He told me he just really enjoys being in "customer service" and you could tell from his interactions with people it was really true.
A Cheerfull Noyse - Albany, CA
Bert Lams: Albany autograph signer

Of course getting from Los Gatos to Albany meant passing through some San Francisco traffic, which I'm now pretty well convinced is actually worse than LA, at least in some areas.
SF traffic (photo by bored driver Tom)

September 4 - Los Gatos, CA
A day off for me today in Los Gatos, and a chance to go wander around Santa Cruz a bit too. Bert meanwhile is out in San Mateo having a guitar meeting with a small group of local players. Last night was a very memorable evening with a houseconcert on a deck overlooking the valleys, trees and sunset of the mountains above Santa Cruz. Our friend Sandy once again pulled off a fantastic evening. People were quite attentive and many brought food items to share as well which mmade for a great variety of snacks and drinks. About 30 minutes after the end of the actual concert, people clamored for an encore, so we went out and played a few more pieces, including one that I have to read music for. Sandy's friend Bill held a flashlight for me as I stared at my three sheets placed loosely on a chair in front of me.
The audience arrives - Los Gatos, CA
the food arrives - Los Gatos, CA

sunset concert in Los Gatos
(photo by Linda and Jim)
"hey, I know you!"
(photo by Linda and Jim)

the listeners - Los Gatos, CA
(photo by Linda and Jim)

One thing I've learned about the people in Los Gatos, is that (appropriately) many of them have cats. I stayed with Sandy's friend Bill this time and he has a new kitten named Plexi. Bill is a guitar player and thought Plexi's black nose coloring looked like a guitar pick (plectrum). Plexi and I became friends quickly and played many fun games, like "kill the shoe laces", "kill the camera's lens cap", "kill the computer's onscreen cursor", "kill the spacebar", "kill the ethernet cable" or basically "kill anything that is moving or looks like it wants to move." Sandy's sister Linda and her husband Jim also have an amazing 20 + pound cat named Hero. Hero apparently is part Asian leopard and is the biggest loudest cat I've ever seen.
kill the lens cap game with Plexi
kill the shoe lace game with Plexi

Jim and Hero

September 3, 2006 - leaving Santa Barbara, CA
Last night Bert and I played at the Mercury Lounge in Goleta, a great little club that has some of the funkiest but most fun interior decore I've come across. We had a huge struggle finding lodging for the night which I finally attributed to several things; labor day weekend, a touristy beach city, late minute booking, and no non-beach cities anywhere close. Our only options for a time were to spend $425 for one room in a 2 star hotel in Santa Barbara or drive 2 hours south, totally out of our way, to spend maybe $150. Finally, Bert called Dawn, the club owner to ask for suggestions and she graciously invited us to stay at her home. She already had one out of town guest staying there though which meant Bert and I wound up sharing one room which had a couch a bed, and... a bathtub! Dawn told us when we arrived how great the bathtub was and how beautiful it was to open the window in front of it that looked into her backyard. Bert replied (laughing) several times "We're VERY straight guys!!!" As it was, we held off on baths.
Brief stop at the Santa Barbara Mission

Dawn's "living room"

Tom's bed
Bert's bed

September 2, 2006 - Los Angeles, CA
Bert Lams and I are two nights into our west coast run now. I came to realize recently that what I'm looking forward to the most on this trip is getting to reconnect with friends in each city. Having done many west coast trips over the past few years, I/we have some really wonderful friends in different areas, and I'm already enjoying seeing them. Last night we played in an amazing house in LA, owned by some of Bert's friends/family who I've gotten to know in recent years. We really couldn't have asked for a nicer setting for the music we're doing and our hosts really made everyone feel at home with all kinds of drinks and food readily available for all. Thanks Sandy, Cecil, Dianne, Amy, Bill and "gramma!"

Our LA venue (also a great home and an ABC TV location set)

August 13, 2006 - Encinitas, CA
Things have been a complete whirlwind for a few months now as you can tell from the lack of any posts here. Ironic, but true that when there is too much news to tell, the news page stands empty. I have something of a breather over the next week or two now though which is good because the fall is lining up to be a busy one.

Coming up from August 31- September 14, my good friend Bert Lams and I will be doing a west coast tour to promote our solo albums. Bert of course is a member of The California Guitar Trio, a group I've been lucky to get to tour with several times as a guest. He recently released his first solo album called "Nascent," which is a great collection of arrangements of the music of Bach for steel string guitar. Bert actually uses a tuning based on 5 note jumps between strings instead of the usual 4 note jumps. This makes his guitar a little more like a cello and many of the pieces on the album were originally cello pieces, so it's a very nice fit and a great new spin on some amazing music. Many of the shows on this trip are going to be house concerts, which usually make for great intimate evenings but also means space will be quite limited. If we're coming through your area, I highly recommend you get in touch with the show's host as soon as possible.

Also coming up in October, the Tony Levin Band will be making a west coast run. Drummer Jerry Marotta and I will be opening for a few of the shows, including ones in San Diego and San Juan Capistrano. The San Juan show at the Coach House promises to be something extra special. The Coach House was in fact the first place I opened for Tony's group several years ago and it was one of the best shows I've ever been a part of. Through a special arrangement with the venue, we also have discounted tickets to pass along for that one. Same general admission seating as all their tickets, but you'll save about $10 a ticket versus the Ticket Master price.

Tony's Band is made up of Tony Levin (bass, Stick, vocals), Jerry Marotta (drums, vocals), Larry Fast (keys), Pete Levin (piano) and Jesse Gress (guitar). If the names aren't familair to you, I can guarantee you've heard them. Tony, Larry and Jerry were 3/4 of Peter Gabriel's Band for over ten years, and while everyone in the band has amazing histories of working with great artists, Tony's is most impressive, having played with other artists like King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Buddy Rich, John Lennon, Stevie Nicks, Sara McLachlan, Paula Cole, Seal, Paul Simon, Carly Simon, Steps Ahead, Liquid Tension Experiment, California Guitar Trio, David Bowie, Tracy Chapman, Cher, James Taylor, Dire Straits and Lou Reed (to name just a handful).

Hope you can make it to some of these shows!

Want more Tom stories and trivia? Check out the website archives for past tour diaries.

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