Saturday December 5, 2009 - Encinitas, CA
Bert Lams left early this morning, heading home after about a week of recording here in Encinitas. We managed to get two new pieces up and running to round out the album we're doing plus I think about three or four little improv bits with some wild sounds that we might include for fun it they seem to fit. We're hoping to have this album in hand early next year.

Today though I'm playing catch up with all the "domestic" chores I've been ignoring for about six weeks now. First on the list.. a tire inspection and rotation. Turns out I've actually put about 34,000 miles on these tires in roughly two years. Not bad.. next year maybe we can try for more!

Saturday November 28, 2009 - Encinitas, CA
Today we took a slight break from recording and worked to get some photos done with our friends Gary and Jill from Gary takes outstanding live photos, and they were interested in expanding their scope a bit so we spent the afternoon together driving around Encinitas to a few different locations. Last night I actually tried to go scout some out. It's always tricky trying to find places that look interesting but are still accessible (and where you won't get run over). We're waiting now to see the full batch of pics, but in the meantime, they sent us some samples to check out.

some quick sample shots from Gary and Jill of

Tuesday November 24, 2009 - Hwy 101 from Santa Cruz to LA to Encinitas
Today was a drive day for us. With all the shows done our only task today was to get back to Encinitas where Bert and I will be working on our album for the next few days. We managed to arrange to meet up with Emmett and Yuta Chapman for dinner in LA (though traffic in Santa Barbara made us quite late) and actually made a very quick tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium on the way down too. It's the kind of place you could probably spend a full day in, just watching the critters, but we still managed to glance at all of them before piling back in the car.

The bit on the left is actually a type of Sea Horse (Leafy Sea Dragon)

A giant tidepool and a bit of the bay
A lifesized Giant Clam replica (but they don't always come with Lamses)

Monday November 23, 2009 - Santa Cruz, CA
Tonight we played at the home of our friends Neil and Polly. Neil is a great drummer and drum teacher who works a lot in the area. They actually hosted the two of us a few years ago, and in-between have also played host to some Stick events as well. Polly is an artist who works with glass and the whole house is decorated with some (often) wild design and craft work. Neil joined us for two pieces playing his hand held Zen drum which was fun. I had to smile a bit though as our collective volume went up a bit when he joined us. You would expect that with acoustic drums for sure, but somehow I guess his electronic Zen drum (with a volume knob built in) was real enough to take us in the same direction!

Sunday November 22, 2009 - Santa Rosa, CA
I must say it's good to be back in California sunshine! We had a simple sunny drive today and an afternoon living room concert with our friends Nancy and Larry. Nancy is a terrific flute player and she joined us for a version of The Marsh. Afterwards she and Larry served us and several of their friends dinner. It felt like an early Thanksgiving (except for it being Lasagna maybe!)

an early Thanksgiving Lasagna (or the table for it at least!)

Saturday November 21, 2009 - Upper Lake, CA
Tonights show in Upper Lake was a real treat. My dad lives in Lake county and for several years now has been helping to promote us there. He's sounding more and more like a professional promoter and this time found a wonderful spot for us. Bernard B. and his wife have been working for years to rennovate three old buildings in downtown Upper Lake, CA. They have a hotel, a restaurant (made from an old tavern) and a third building used for meetings and concerts. He's been doing a music series there maybe once a month but was willing to book us outside of his normal schedule. Thanks to a bit of local press and my Dad and Bernard working to spread the word, we wound up with an overflow crowd. Bernard actually got permission from the fire marshall to add a few more seats and still had a waiting list of people in case of cancellations. It was really a great atmosphere and we had some amazing food to boot!

Tallman Hotel (by night) in Upperlake, CA
a quick audience shot by the Stick player

Getting to Upper Lake today though we had a bit of a scary drive again as we wound through the mountains from Bend. I think in normal conditions it's about a 7.5 hour drive but it actually took us closer to ten hours. Good thing we left early! An early morning stop for Internet and coffee told us that the weather looked clear but the roads were frozen over in places and all drivers were required to carry chains. We stopped at a local tire store and bought a set just in case, and were off. The weather stayed clear the whole time but the road conditions were bad in places. We actually passed two different scary wrecks with overturned cars. Normally if we have a ten hour drive, we would never plan to play the same day. The welcome we received in Upper Lake though and the great food and atmosphere really seemed to energize us again and we had a great show.

Icy roads from Bend to Upper Lake...
...but Carrie is still happy!

Friday November 20 - Bend, OR
We had a pretty harrowing drive today from Eugene to Bend. Friends were warning me that the mountain passes might be snowy, but the locals in Eugene seemed to think we'd be fine. Most of the drive was just a bit rainy, but as we got up to about 3000 feet in elevation there was a fair amount of snowing going on. It was tense driving for maybe an hour or so but we made it through without too much slipping around and thankfully didn't see any accidents either.

Tonight we had a great time playing at The Breedlove Guitar Factory in Bend. Bert and CGT play their guitars and they'd been thinking about using their showroom at Bend for something of a "house concert" style music series. I guess we were the first event they'd done of this sort, but they did it very well. Jason, one of the main luthiers there gave us a tour of the facility including a sneak peak of Bert's new-in-the-works guitar and his mother got into the act by making all sorts of hor dourves for all the guests.

Breelove Guitar Factory
guitar maker Jason has great taste in CDs!

Thursday November 19, 2009 - Eugene, OR
We've just checked into one of the few hotels we're using for this trip and have a little time to relax before heading to the venue. It's a fun but "funky" one tonight; Cozmic Pizza here in Eugene. I think the last time I was there was on a trip with Jerry Marotta and Erik Wollo. CGT played there too before, though I'm actually not sure if I was there with them or not. Hmm.. Tonight we're opening for a duo called Lynx and Janover. The connection there is that they're friends with our friend Jarrod who is a great (and wild!) local percussionist who will also be joining us for a few pieces.

load in time at Cozmic Pizza

merch girl Carrie loves being photographed
Cozmic Pizza: act 2 (Lynx and Jannover)

Thursday November 19, 2009 - Portland, OR
Very fun show last night at the home of Darin and Laura S. They hosted us once before on a NW trip maybe three years ago and have had a few other house concerts in-between our visits. So they're pros now! They and their family were incredibly welcoming hosts, taking care of everything from Bert's laundry to homemade waffles this morning. Last night we "debuted" a brand new piece.. I'm not sure if we're convinced on the form with it yet, but we managed to get it into a playable shape and gave it a go last night for the first time. During the day we managed a quick visit to downtown Portland and a giant bookstore called Powells. Pretty amazing place. I found a little paperback copy of John Lennon's first two books filled with his funny little stories and drawings.

Tuesday November 17, 2009 - Seattle/Kirkland, WA
We had our only day off of this little tour today. We rehearsed a bit in the morning and in the afternoon went to visit friends of mine who have a Pro Audio shop here before picking up Bert's wife Carrie at the airport. The three of us then headed to check out Seattle's "Pike's Place" Market where you'll find everything from fish and fruit vendors to shops for gems and comic books.

Monday November 16, 2009 - Kirkland, WA
Tonight we played at the home of Alisha and Pieter, old friends of Bert's who recently moved to the area. I guess maybe I'd actually met Alisha many years ago while touring with CGT through (?) Iowa? Alisha is a great harpist and she did an opening set that I found a bit surprising. Normally when I think of harp I think of Celtic music or maybe classical. Alisha is very into Latin American music written for the harp though which was neat to hear. She's a great player and joined us for an arrangment of The Marsh as well. Their young daughter Alex was a lot of fun too, making sure (very sure) people paid for the CDs they took and always negotiating with her parents for another one of the snacks they were serving to guests.

Sunday November 15, 2009 - Everett, WA
An afternoon show today at the home of Peter and Maggie. Peter used to be a radio host in the area and has one of the largest music collections I've ever seen. We played in their living room which had a really great sound to it with nice wood floors and an unusual shape. The weather was a bit "off" and probably kept a few people away, but we still had a good show and a fun time. Maggie even set Bert up with about 8 free coffee coupons for Starbucks.. only good through tomorrow. I'm not sure even Bert can handle that!

The stage is set in Evertt, WA
I can see both sides now

Saturday November 14, 2009 - Vancouver, BC
Today we played in the homes of our friends Fleurette and Henri. Local Stickist (and good friend) Jim Meyer opened for us at Fleurette's as well. I always love visiting Vancouver, it's such a beautiful (though cold now) place. It was great to hear Jim play. Both his playing and his "chatting" to an audience get more solid and comfortable everytime I visit! Fleurette has really come to embrace the arts in her home as well. She had a local artist's works dislpayed on the walls and a man explained who the artist was and how to get in touch about the art before we played. I was happy to see some of the local Stick folks that I met in May make it out to the show as well! We wound up staying with an old friend of Bert's named Pablo who was on guitar courses with him many years ago. He took very good care of us and actually showed us old photos of the courses in England where another friend of mine, Stickist Jim Reily was attending as well.

some guy tells a story in Vancouver
Bert and our amazing hostess Fleurette (Bert is on the right)

Stop number one in Vancouver

We had a looong experience at the border yesterday trying to get across. I'm a little hesitant to even write about it because one of the things they did was to print out whatever they found on the internet that mentioned us and our house concert tour. I have a feeling whatever I write here might be presented to me in print the next time I try to visit Canada, but.. it was an interesting story to tell. I think the fact that this tour is mostly house concerts poses an unusual situation for border issues. Three years ago we did a trip like this and were told at the time that as long as where we were playing wasn't a place whose primary business was selling alcohol, we didn't need work visas. So.. with that in mind, this time we did what we did last time and tried to go in through the normal entry line. We had several hours of questioning, during which I was sniffed over by a dog, and had every part of my pockets, socks, waistline and wallet searched (not to mention the car). It was wild... they actually asked about my criminal history (I had a speeding ticket maybe seven years ago and a parking ticket maybe 3 years ago). They went on to ask if I'd ever been in jail, under house arrest, etc. (not even close!) They even asked if we had any child porn on our laptops and may have gone through them as well when they searched the car. They first told us we weren't going to be let in because they didn't think we were telling them the full story.. then they seemed to relent and said they'd give us a "pass" this one time. They wound up sending us back to the US and told us to go through the commercial entry port with all the semi-trucks because we had about 90 CDs with us. So.. that's what we did. I think we learned a good lesson here maybe. When the normal line sees two musicians with a bunch of gear and 90 CDs, they must think it's "big business" trying to come in under cover or something. When we went to the commercial line though it seemed we were so small compared to the semi-trucks and their cargos that the agent couldn't understand how we even make money doing what we do and didn't hassle us much at all. So.. next time straight to the commercial line I guess!

Thursday November 12, 2009 - I5 and more I5
Yesterday I started the long drive from Encinitas, CA to Seattle and Canada. Actually on Wednesday I left about 2:30 pm to arrive about 11:30 pm at the Sacramento airport and pick up Bert. We then drove about 30 mins north to a motel and spent the night. Our goal the next day was to then make it from Sacramento to Seattle in time to see some friends play in a guitar show called "Tuning The Air." We woke up early and were driving by 7am. We made it to Seattle and the venue at 7:30pm, just in time for the 8pm show! I'm really glad we made the effort though and the show is great. Definitley something for guitar fans to check out, especially if you only have a 12 hour drive to get there!

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

©2009 ThosSounds.  All Rights Reserved.