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Jeff Campbell Band SXSW 2014
Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014 #1

While Negative Press Project has been on hiatus, I have had the good fortune to remain busy on a multitude of other gigs.  One of my primary focuses is with Jeff Campbell at the moment.  While I may be remiss in my responsibilities to keep an up to date Blog, I have some reading to offer you as I recap Jeff Campbell and band’s tour of the Southwest on our way to and from Austin, TX for SXSW in March 2014 with a series of entries.

Here goes…

Packed and Ready to Go

Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014

Max and I were trailing Jeff and crew in my Honda Element, which was stuffed to the gills with guitars, several pieces of band member luggage, organic foods and my fully carved Hungarian double bass, among who knows what else.  We approached the Border Patrol inspection station heading east on highway 10 in the Texas desert just outside of Sierra Blanca- a blip on the west Texas landscape.  Megan’s Nissan Sentra pulled ahead of us and they were promptly waved through.  I rolled to the uniformed gentleman with a standard issue Berretta 96D side arm on his belt.  This was a permanent checkpoint with an aluminum overhang, detention trailer and orange cones to direct vehicles towards questioning.  The canine was sniffing around all vehicles as they approached, and we were no exception.  The officer asked, “are you US Citizens?”  To which we replied, “yes,” and handed him our ID’s.  “Where are you headed?” he asked.  “We’re on our way to Austin.”  While the officer was studying my US Passport card, the other border patrolman with the drug-sniffing dog waved to our guy and said, “this one!

Sir, please pull over to the left there and exit the vehicle!”…

Part One

Jeff Campbell rallied all his resources to schedule a series of house concert and showcase performances in March 2014.  He collected his core band- me (Andrew Lion), Rick Munoz, and Max Delaney, along with sometime featured band member, Megan Slankard- for a two-week tour of the Southwest.  Megan also brought her drummer and back-up singer, Kyle Caprista for the first leg of the tour.  (You may see him playing shaker and singing on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! Performance from December 2013.)

We set out in two vehicles to collect bugs on the windshield across four states and back.  Why two vehicles?  Because I brought “The Hungarian”- my 20+ year old fully carved double bass for our show at Room 5 in LA and the acoustic house concerts along the way.  Also in tow was my custom 5-string Sadowsky P/J Electric Bass.   These are the tools of my trade and they performed exceptionally well considering the multitude of climates and elevations we visited.

Wanna do a house concert with Jeff Campbell? Email ak@ABK

Wanna do a house concert with Jeff Campbell? Email ak@ABK

The group warmed up with an over-capacity house concert in Saratoga, CA on the first night of the tour.  This was the official kick-off, except that we all got to sleep in our own beds that night.  The next day, we hit the road at the crack of noon to rack up five and half hours of driving to LA for a well-attended electro-acoustic showcase.

At each stop along the way of the tour, Megan opened up for the Jeff Campbell band encouraging sing-a-longs by JC band members and generally blowing away the audience.  Room 5 affirmed Megan’s extraordinary talent and set the bar throughout the remainder of the tour.

Los Angeles has a feeling to it that I have become very familiar with.  Around you, one can see the artificial, the ambitious, and the truly talented, sometimes all in the same person.  At the same time, many genuine fans of Megan and Jeff’s showed up to make for a warm reception at Room 5 Lounge.  It is a venue that I highly recommend for its intimacy, conscientious sound engineer, cute bartenders (these were the girls who were putting themselves through college or acting school who had not yet shed their hometown authenticity- there were some fairly handsome, I suppose, attendants in the downstairs bar for you ladies as well), and good food from the restaurant below.

It was especially entertaining to have Kyle join us on the tour not only for his expansive knowledge of pop/rock music, but also to watch him work the room.  With a generous assist from Megan, he was tweeting with one of the bartenders not 20-minutes after we left the club.

Kyle Caprista

Kyle Caprista

For some brief background on Kyle, he is a full-time freelance musician.  He is enjoying some steady recording session work in the SF Bay Area (not an easy place to do so), and performs in the corporate cover band, Pop Rocks, along with being Megan Slankard’s longtime band member.  He also takes full advantage of his status as a single musician.  The aforementioned gigs have helped him to be modestly financially independent.  He is not the stereotypical drummer.

Q: What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend?  A: Homeless.

Room 5 was a good hang with some amazing musicians, and I even got to “shoot-the-manure” with a couple of bass players who were playing with other artists that night.  They were both from St. Louis and had coincidentally landed in Los Angeles (Justin by way of Japan where he studied and married a beautiful Japanese woman, Narumi, and the other, Stella, a former high school classmate of Justin’s now pursuing nursing).  They were both orchestral players- a skill I have only just begun to explore.  We got to talk about the LA music scene, egotistical classical bass teachers, and string choices for jazz versus orchestral playing.   It was a respectable geek out session.

The next day Jeff Campbell et al were due in San Diego (Carlsbad actually), so we set up camp for the night after the Room 5 show at an aspiring song-writer/singer friend of Jeff’s in LA, Roya, who giddily invited us to live out her rock-n-roll fantasy of having a band crash at her place.  Evidently, this was a dream of hers since she was fourteen years old.  Roya is a beautiful Persian woman who works in the “industry” vetting screenplays for Fox Searchlight Pictures.  Unfortunately for her, we were a relatively mellow and well-behaved group.  There were no tales of trashing hotel rooms or doing inexplicable things with a Red Snapper (Led Zeppelin reference), so all Roya got to experience was us sitting in a round singing Rolling Stones tunes (courtesy of Kyle Caprista- of note is that he’s also an unlikely country fan).

Once we all staked out our places on couches and Coleman air mattresses, with the exception of Jeff and Megan who got their own bed, the hazards of touring revealed its first sound, filling the high-ceilinged space with a buzz to rival the sonic pollution of a saw mill.  I got to share the living room with Kyle and Max, which, isn’t a problem in and of itself, but sleep is precious on tour and unfortunately, Kyle and I were subjected to the sawing of logs thanks to Max Delaney.  Sorry girls, I know you can’t help yourself around Max’s baby blues and Pantene sponsored baby soft blonde hair, but be sure to wear earplugs when staying over for a slumber party- the doooawd snawz wicked pissa (he’s also from Massachusetts- although technically he’s a Cape Cod hippie without an accent).

Die Hard Movie Poster-1988

Die Hard Movie Poster-1988

After a refreshing 3-4 hours of sleep (can you sense the “joy” in my tone?), we awoke to the beaming LA sun.  It was 80 degrees and still technically winter!  Roya was up and busy in her kitchen.  Max and I were in the mood to get some miles under our feet and staked out a route from Roya’s apartment to the infamous Nakatomi Plaza (of the first Die Hard movie).  What we didn’t expect was that it was also the day of the LA Marathon.  Fortunately we were headed the opposite direction despite numerous attempts by those around us to be corralled into a group of number plate Race-Ready shorts wearing running geeks.  Although my running chops were fairly rusty, I kept up with Max two-thirds of the way until I had to concede to my own pace.  I’m more of a long distance hike or bike kinda guy these days, but there aren’t a lot of options when out on the road.

We returned to a spread that would put any Bed & Breakfast to shame.  Platters full of fruit, pancakes, and bacon, mmm baaacon!  We were going to be well nourished for the shortest drive yet of the tour, LA to Carlsbad.

In my prior touring experience with a four-piece rock band and a GMC Yukon XL, I had prided myself on being an expert packer.  We filled that vehicle with four guys and all of our amps, instruments and luggage.  However, I was to be schooled on this trip with Jeff Campbell.  I had my Honda Element and Megan had her Nissan Sentra.  With a Double Bass, Drum Set, Electric Bass and luggage, I had the Element filled with a respectable amount of gear and room for one passenger.  However, with additional personnel, guitars, merch case and luggage, various sundries and paraphernalia, Megan proceeded to fill every cubic inch of space in the back of the Element.  Needless to say, I was a mere runner up in the pack pageant.

We were scheduled for a house concert at the Bain’s house in Carlsbad.  Rick and I went ahead of the rest of the group, as I was encouraged by the others not to miss the local neighborhood specialty, Balconi’s Almond Infused Latte (Trademark Pending).   For those of you who are coffee afficionados/snobs, you may be familiar with the custom cup blends of Philz or Blue Bottle, but this place puts them to shame with their individual Siphon coffees.  Imagine a bar full of cup-sized beakers placed above individual burners full of pure natural water percolating into a filter of freshly ground and locally roasted individual lot organic coffee beans.  That was an impressive sight, and I would normally try such a fancy process just to cross it off my list, but I opted for the Almond Essence Latte and it lived up to the hype.  I am not typically one for sweet drinks, but it was the right blend of fast pull espresso, almond and stevia milk, with an artful foam to finish it off.

Balconi Coffee Company

Balconi Coffee Company

Too bad we were taking them to go.  However, we wanted to get out of dodge.   LA is fine to visit, but it was time to move on.  Especially since 50 feet away a crashed Los Angeles patrol car with air bag deployed was surrounded by bomb squad technicians, and SWAT team officers that had roped off the block- and this was not a movie set!

To be continued…

Next Up: Gas Tank Adventures

Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014 #2

2009 Honda Element

Here are the following entries:
Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014 #2
Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014 #3
Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014 #4
Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014 #5
Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014 #6
Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014 #7
Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band SXSW Tour March 2014 #8 – Final Episode


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