Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Gotta Keep Moving

Sorry its been a few weeks since I last checked in. Since the last time I posted, there have been 2 big things going on that are post-worthy. No bus content today :-(

The company I work for moved my department a few miles down the road, so that created quite a bit of chaos and distraction. It's not terribly interesting, but its real life. I moved to Beaverton to radically reduce my commute from a 45 minute one-way drive. For some, that might feel like a dream commute compared to what you drive now. To me, spending 1-1/2 hours sitting in heavy rubber-banding traffic was too stressful. After so many years, I knew my odds of getting into a wreck, and recognized I'd dodged the odds for so long, I was due. So, I rented a place less than 2 miles from my office. Perfect. On a really bad traffic morning, it could still take me 30 minutes in a car, but I could ride a bike in less than 20 minutes consistently.

The new office is 8 miles away, in Hillsboro. The mass-transit options are few. The space is nice, but with an office so far away from so many of our respective homes, I wonder how long it will be before folks decide the commute is too far, and there are viable alternatives closer to home. We'll see.

Before the divorce, before the separation, before I was asked to spend a couple of years sleeping in a guest room, I had made a commitment to my boys to gift $1k to help them get a car. At the time, the plan was to get a $1k car which needed work, and then work on it together as a project. By the time the boy was 16 and ready to drive on their own, he would have a car that he had spent years getting to know it, and pouring sweat-equity into it so he would treat it well. He would also know how the systems worked, and how to fix many of them. Well... what was listed in the first sentence got in the way of the original plan. Fast-forward 4 years and the first boy is now 17.

Weekend before last (on Sep20), he and I drove to a small town outside Seattle to size-up a 1997 Audi A4. He had been looking at Subaru sedans. He and I agreed that Subaru's are grossly overpriced in this area, so he widened his search to other all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles. He discovered that the A4 is widely available, and not nearly as highly sought after in the PacNW used market. So, when he found this one outside Seattle, we went for it.

It took us 3+ hours to get there, trading driving responsibilities and connecting on school, college prospects, etc. The A4 is a black quattro with heated leather seats, etc. The couple who were selling it were deep Audi people. This one was their first. They have since owned at least 3 more, and were driving another one when they met us. Since this was the first, there were subtle customizations (HID headlights, lowering springs, improved speakers, etc) that further
improved the value. It had been in a low-speed nose-bump accident, but otherwise the exterior and interior were perfect. The test drive cemented our opinion of the car: it handled extremely well. The steering was smooth and responsive, the brakes were as well, and neither influenced the other. The gas was quick, the clutch acceptable (very short pivot point) and the power very good. There were some issues (power locks broken, the dented front, no heat nor AC and a broken wiper motor), so we offered a couple hundred less than his asking price.

T drove the new A4 home, leading the triumphant parade from Seattle down the I-5. He got it through DEQ the new Tuesday and got plates on Wednesday. The insurance for it was only $10 more a month than the Saturn he had been primary driver on. The final price was $1300. So far, worth every penny.

The commute I described at the beginning I now get to drive my old friend Flash (TDI Jetta). So, the longer commute isn't all bad. It's actually kinda nice to drive him again. I got home late last night from a trip back east. I'll post on that soon. That's it for today. As always, thanks for following along-

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Other One

I watched the Netflix original documentary "The Other One" over the weekend, today's post is mostly about that. I'm sure there will be some bus / travel content mixed in somewhere. The documentary is a somewhat autobiographical look at the life and times of guitarist Bob Weir.

First, an Apology
the man, the legend
After watching the documentary, I think I understand now why Bob stopped touring. In my blast of the Fare Thee Well shows (see: Fare Thee Okay), I kicked up a rumor that maybe Bob is sick. Maybe he is, how the hell would I know? In the documentary, you can see small glimpses into his daily life with his family. I hadn't really thought much about what an endless life on the road must be like. Personally, I'd hit the road, catch a few shows and be back in my normal routine after being gone for maybe a week. Bob spent most of his life from 1970 through 2013 on the road. I feel the heel for actually getting upset that he was going to stop. I have teenage kids, so I can absolutely relate to his unspoken motivation: I've spent too many years away from them, and I only have a few more years before they leave me to start their own lives. It totally makes sense.

Maybe I'm in an apologetic mood. Watching Jerry's daughter Trixie describe the burden Jerry felt really got me. Similar to my guilt over wanting Bob to tour more, I feel awful knowing that my friends and I who simply wanted "more" were part of the dynamic that led to Jerry's demise. Of course, Jerry owned his decisions, and after the diabetic coma in 1986 he chose to re-introduce heroin, but how great must the pressure have been? 20+ years under the radar to have In the Dark and Touch of Gray to launch them into stadiums. I was just a teenage kid, not knowing any better when the change happened, so I'm not sure what to do with this feeling. I'll go with "I'm sorry Trixie. No other guitarist could make me smile the way your dad could. It was magical and better than any other stimulus available at a Dead show."

Where's Phil?
As present as Bob's relationship with Jerry was in the documentary, his relationship with Phil was absent. As a bass player, I was expecting a great deal about how he and Phil worked together. Consider too, how many years the 2 of them toured together as Furthur. I think Bob looked at these later years as more therapeutic than anything else, working through his mourning for Jerry, the man best described as an older brother figure. Bob and Phil spent so many of those late years together, I'm surprised and a little disappointed that Phil wasn't involved in the documentary project at all. As I think back, I don't think he was even mentioned by name, which is a little weird. Phil was effectively lumped in with Keith, Donna and John Constanten.

John Barlow
Some of the best parts of the documentary, to me, didn't last long enough: the parts that focused on Bob's approach to the instrument. Maybe the producers and director thought that the average audience wouldn't be as interested. Personally, that's what I really wanted to hear: how did he construct songs with Barlow, where did Barlow go (why did he and Bob stop working together), what are Bob's triggers for changing his voicings on songs, etc. Still, getting a long-overdue reminder of his humanity and personal limits was welcomed. It was a good watch, and I'll watch it again. Knowing Bob's current life situation, I think it's time we went to him rather than continue to wait for him to come to us.

Ok, some bus stuff
I spent some time working on scraping the chrome off those 15" rims. I used a Dremel to soften up the skin and then used a putty knife to get under the edge and peel away some chrome-skin. Overall, 2 rims are almost completely cleared of chrome. As time presents itself this week, I'll hopefully get after the other 2. I am not up for driving too far on those old tires. They are over 10 years old, and spent far too much of their life sitting in one place. After the tire fail in Wheeler (see:Santa Clara by way of Wheeler) I'd rather drive contemporary transportation until the rims are cleared, painted and new rubber slapped on. Net-net, the bus may not be operational again this dry season. Oh well.

As always, thanks for following along. I'll be keeping my eyes and ears out for a Bob Weir show announcement. Maybe he'll be ready to hit stage about when Hapy the wonderbus is ready to hit the road. It would be really great to have the two in the same location one more time.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hoot 15 bands

Yeah, it has gotten out of hand about how long this has taken. The bands were good this year, albeit more "Phish-like" than the wide-spectrum show last year. In order of appearance-

Hootenanny Band Reviews
Grateful Buds We missed the beginning of their set, but they are a heavily blue-grass influenced Grateful Dead-ish band. Think Dead covers with a banjo, but better than that.

Bottleneck Blues I thought they'd be a blues band, and at points they were. At other times, they were more of a middle-of-the-road rock power trio. Pretty good festival music, and the crowd liked them even if most were busying themselves with setting up camp more than grooving.

Joytribe One of our favorites from last year, and they held up to a foggy memory. Lead singer can belt, and her multi-instrument skills are better this year than last. Very fun, active, get-your-body-moving music.

The Hillwilliams were one of the bands we loved last year. These guys rocked the late-night tent last year, though we missed their late show this year. Solid blue-grass / country / Americana music.

Kina Lyn and the Hat Rack Kina can wail. I mean fantastic pipes. The only weak point in their performance was in her rhythm guitar playing: it jacked the beat. They should add a second guitar so she can focus on singing which she does incredibly well. Her singing was so strong, that I really can't remember the Hat Rack. It's almost like seeing Big Brother and the Holding Company back in the day. You remember Janis just wailing, but the band? Shrug. Can't remember. Keep the guitar for writing, Kina. Great stuff.

Jesta wasn't as good as I had expected them to be. Think Phish-like songs with odd segments cutting against the groovy. The vocals weren't terribly strong and the vocal lines weren't very advanced, but the instrument musicianship was really good. Maybe they should pair up with a stronger singer who can write vocal lines?

Urban Shaman is a new formation of Vivid Curve. We absolutely loved Vivid Curve last year, so we were very excited to see their new formation. Unfortunately, part of what made Vivid Curve so good was the charisma of the guitar player. Without him, Urban Shaman lacked the draw-them-in magnetism. The didgeridoo was, of course, spot on, and the drummer was so much the same, he even wore the same hat as last year. Still, without the guitarist, they weren't quite as good.

Rainbow Electric Of the run of bands, Rainbow Electric may have been the weakest, but I think its probably better said as least experienced. They looked under 21, but had a great vibe. They were just new at the game, and didn't have the chops or material to carry a full set. Given time and practice, they'll be good.

Yur Daddy Last year, Yur Daddy arrived with a huge entourage. All weekend, the YurDaddies walked around with bandannas around their heads to draw attention. They had a dedicated camping zone. When Yur Daddy took the stage, their crowd jammed into the front of the concert bowl. This year, the entourage didn't come to the Hoot. That changed how Yur Daddy played. Their songs were the same, but didn't have as much life. The solos were good, but didn't have that cock-of-the-walk energy that was prevalent last year. We're still Yur Daddy fans, but missed the energy they had last year.

Shafty We'd never seen Shafty before, though I've seen Phish a few times. Shafty does a very good carbon-copy of Phish. Extremely good. If you like Phish, you can close your eyes and imagine Trey and company when you hear Shafty. If you've never seen Phish, and want to experience their sound in a tiny venue with less than 100 people, go see Shafty. Great show fellas; you should have closed the first night if not the whole festival. I'm not a very big Phish-head, but you really nailed it.

Garcia Birthday Band Somewhere along the way, GBB changed guitarists. I don't know when, and I can't tell from their website, but the guy who started the whole thing isn't in the band anymore. Oh well. I think that makes the entire band has turned over since I first saw them play under the trees out at the Edgefield to celebrate Jerry Garcia's birthday so many years ago. Since they cover the Dead, I'm probably a more harsh critic of GBB than everyone else. Still, they played a good show, and ended the festival on a high note.

Again, I'm sorry its taken me so long to get this out. It was a great summer music festival season, so I'll blame the delay on my going to more festivals and trying to keep my notes clean. Next Summer, I intend to start the season right with the Hootenanny again. We're going to hit Four Peaks and I want to make it to Pickathon. I'd like to add in another festival that I've only just heard of, like Summer Meltdown or maybe mix it up and hit a hemp festival. We'll see. Planning for next summer festival season is only a few months away :)