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Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band Tour SXSW March 2014 #8 – Final Episode

The Eighth and Final installment of the Tour Beard Diaries – Jeff Campbell and Band Tour SXSW March 2014

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

 

 

Jeff Campbell Band Las Cruces, NM

Jeff Campbell Band Las Cruces, NM

 

PART 8/ Epilogue:

 

Phoenix Valley of the Sun (Surprise, AZ) House Concert

After digging the booster cables out of Megan’s car to give the Element a jump, we waved goodbye to our hosts, the Curry’s, and piled into our respective vehicles on our way to the final performance of the tour in Surprise, Arizona.  As we hit the road directed towards the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix), we began to contemplate what the “surprise” was going to be.  This was part of a monthly house concert series that Jeff was invited to and conveniently coincided with our itinerary for the tour.  Although I am getting slightly ahead of myself, we deduced that the surprise may be that there was a “Surprise, Arizona” to begin with.  Phoenix is the sixth most populous city in the nation and residents have nowhere else to spread but out.  Surprise as it turns out is a mystery even to some of the Phoenix and Scottsdale metro locals (we heard later) in that despite the rows of tract homes and under construction highways, many from the area had never been to the outskirts of Phoenix that far; although, as I understand it, the area boasts a growth rate of 281% between 2000 and 2010.

Arizona holds certain distant memories for me.  My great-grandparents lived in Phoenix when it was a slightly sleepier town.  Each Easter for several years, my family would find an occasion to visit and I got to experience the wild swings of climate from burning hot sun to ferocious thunder, lightning and hail storms (all within hours of each other).   My other memory of Phoenix was Easter egg hunting among huge thickets of cactus, and determining that must have been the best place to hide eggs and proceeded to cover myself in needles; my mother spent the rest of the evening painfully extracting the thorny barbs.  Some lessons you only have to learn once.  I also didn’t find any eggs.

On a mission

Jeff and I were trailing the rest of the group by about a half hour and we pulled into the Phoenix city rush hour rocking Bay Area home boy Forrest Day (I’ve had past occasions to share a bill with Forrest when I performed with OONA and he is a masterful multi-instrumentalist who commands a stage like no one else!).  After a long drive staring at the high desert like the one we had that day, and that of days prior, there is nothing like unwinding with a libation once you arrive at your destination.  Sensing that we were near the end of our trip we were looking forward to putting on a great show and having a spirit or two!  Hallelujah! …

Hallelujah indeed; we pulled into the driveway and except for the several rambunctious boys tossing a ball, the street was ominously quiet.  It was still early, and it was a weeknight, so most of the neighborhood probably wasn’t home after their workday yet.  We still had a cooler full of IPA that we transported from Austin, and it was nearly next on the agenda until we walked into the clean suburban home adorned with wholesome family portraits and the thirteen fundamental doctrines of the Church of Latter Day Saints.   Who’s ready for some clean livin’?!?!

To be fair, our hosts were quite gracious and were obviously sacrificing their comfort to have five of us staying in their home for the night.

Although it was clearly a pious home, not all in our group were hip to the ‘Book of Mormon’.  A few tell-tale signs were sprinkled throughout the house and I happened to recognize them as some of my early childhood friends were from a rather unconventional Mormon family in Walnut Creek.  Their story is one that has stayed with me for years and although I have not seen them in years, my love for the family remains to this day.  The two sons and I used to set off for high adventure in the surrounding hills and brooks, much to the chagrin of our mother’s who were none too pleased when the youngest son came back completely unidentifiable; he was caked head to toe in the local creek clay.   All that truly remains with me today are the smiles, laughter and joy that I got to experience with them.  However, their lives would go on to face the complications of modern living in the forms of feminism in contrast to a patriarchal church system, homosexuality, divorce, AIDS, a brain tumor, and death.  I would agree that my lumping all those circumstances together in one-sentence sounds unnecessarily sensational, so let me instead steer you towards the courageous story of Carol Lynn Pearson in a 2007 SFGATE article (it goes into her extraordinary and heroic story with just enough detail to possibly wring up a bit of emotion:  Carol Lynn Pearson Mormon Author & Feminist).

A Rose by any other name

Debbie and Jerry Rose - Nice photo bomb back there, whoever that was...

Debbie and Jerry Rose – Nice photo bomb back there, whoever that was…

As we got ready for another performance, I warmed up on the Hungarian just as the first few guests were beginning to arrive at the Surprise Arizona House Concert.    Some long tones and a bebop head later my intent focus was snapped to a different kind of awareness as an unmistakable laugh wafted through the front door way.  I suddenly had a strange feeling of being transported through a flood of memories and familiar places close to home.  I had been on the road for a couple of weeks, and was well primed for more. My constitution was ready for another week at least.  There is a different rhythm that occurs on the road that I have alluded to in previous entries, and although one does not forget home, an alternate reality takes hold and there is a dreamlike remembrance of those actively going about their lives at home. That is until home comes to you.

Debbie and Jerry Rose, my sister in-law and brother in-law walked through the front door.  It was a treat to see them both, and I paused for a moment when I saw a glimpse of my wife, Laura, in Debbie’s familiar and smiling eyes- it was the first time I noticed such a similarity in the sisters.  Donning a palette of orange, white and black, in light Arizona layers, Debbie and Jerry were in the middle of their annual pilgrimage to Scottsdale for the San Francisco Giants Spring Training session.  They had even brought their longtime friends, RC and Lil, to join them fresh from Margaritaville’s tropical frozen drinks and cheeseburgers in paradise for the Jeff Campbell House Concert.  It was their first time to experience a performance in such a setting, and I let them settle in while we turned the floor over to allow the audience to seat themselves and Megan stepped up to perform her opening set.

Megan larger than life!

Megan larger than life!

As was typical, Megan floored the audience with her powerful set, and especially with her closer, ‘Show Up’.  I had observed how Megan would really invite people into her world on this tour whether in performance, or just being the extremely approachable person she was by making everybody in contact with her feel special.  This night was no exception, and you may deduce from the below lyric excerpts how Megan expertly accommodated the all ages and wholesome audience with one minor revision to her words (this brought a knowing and reciprocal smile to the faces of the band while we watched her):

Original ‘Show Up’ lyric excerpt
What are you waiting for
For me to say I’m sorry for sitting on my ass
What are you waiting for
For me to say I’m sorry I keep giving up so fast

Revised ‘Show Up’ lyric excerpt
What are you waiting for
For me to say I’m sorry for sitting on my hands
What are you waiting for
For me to say I’m sorry I keep giving up so fast

For your listening pleasure, here is an exclusive solo acoustic performance of ‘Show Up’ for the On The Scene SF/O Podcast (on hiatus until we can find funding) hosted by Andrew Lion (me) and Kevin Weber, recorded by Kevin Weber:

Megan Slankard – Solo – ‘Show Up’

The whole group with Jeff Campbell played a lengthy set with a couple of encores to a very generous audience and it felt good to cap the trip off this way.

Dunkin’ Donuts

In every region of the United States the local residents take pride in their notorious cuisine.  Seattle, coffee; San Francisco, Sourdough Bread, The South, Iced Tea and Lemonade; New Orleans, Gumbo; and the Northeast, Dunkin’ Donuts.  For those with the morning coffee ritual, I have heard easterners swear by their Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.  Having grown up with Peet’s Coffee in my back yard in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was convinced that Dunkin’ Donuts coffee couldn’t hold a candle in the wind to Alfred Peet’s institution that originated on the corner of Walnut and Vine in Berkeley in 1966.

The band hurriedly packed as we all felt the pull of the Bay Area after resigning ourselves to the fact that the prior night was our last performance on this series of shows.  Max and Rick were especially intent on hitting the highway as soon as possible.  After a few pleasant exchanges with our hosts, and a lovely spread of homemade granola, greek yogurt, and fruits, we all (well most of us) were ready to get some coffee in our systems for the final haul home.

Rick and I took up the sweeper position behind Jeff, Megan and Max to find some caffeinated fuel.  Coming from the Mormon house we stayed in the night before, our systems weren’t quite ready to be free of our daily poisons.  In fact, I am pretty sure that Jeff and Max had snuck out to the driveway like a couple of delinquent teenagers the night before to stealthily consume a some IPA’s- evidenced by the fact that I found two empty open containers in my vehicle the morning after.

Not wanting to back track into Phoenix, Jeff sought out a Starbucks near the I-10 heading west so we wouldn’t lose anytime as we pointed towards home.  Unfortunately, he reported back to Rick and I, who were stuck behind a long line of impatient drivers and construction vehicles driving 25 MPH, that the Border Patrol had taken over the block the Starbucks was on and we’d have to pivot somewhere else.  Damn!  Arizona sure is sensitive about their suspected illegals!

Without any other option for another 30 miles, Jeff settled on a Dunkin’ Donuts in a strip mall off the highway.  I have to admit that I was a little suspect about grabbing coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts.  Not that I am a huge fan of Starbucks, but my palate had adjusted some on the trip.   We pulled in to the joint and Jeff generously picked up the cost of four coffees and a couple of munchkins each (the trademarked donut holes of Dunkin’ Donuts).  Jeff was originally from Philly, and Max grew up in Massachusetts (the home of Dunkin’ Donuts), so we were relying on their eastern roots to steer us right.  In fact, Rick and Max had a minor debate over the placard under the photo of the original Dunkin’ Donuts shop opened by Bill Rosenberg in 1950 that read:

Dunkin Donuts“Our Humble Beginnings” Quincy, MA – 1950

Rick:  “Look dude, it’s your homeland, Quin-sea Mass!”

Max:  “Doawd! You don’t know what yawh tawhkin’ about, it’s pronounced Qwin-zee!”

With our Styrofoam cups and baggies of fried dough and sugar in hand, we piled into our cars, California bound, to get some miles behind us.   It was not 30 minutes out that Rick and I looked at each and agreed, “this is pretty sh*tty coffee!”

 

Patton

General Patton and his dog, Willy (William the Conqueror)

General Patton and his dog, Willy (William the Conqueror)

Jeff was lobbying hard for a last stop at In-n-Out Burger before concluding the tour, and messaged Rick and I with an address in Indio, CA.  We were getting low in the tank and I wasn’t sure we could make it an additional 30 miles from where we were located.  So we pulled into what had to be the busiest gas station on all of the I-10 at the Chiriaco Summit Chevron.  It was time for a pit stop anyway.  So as we rounded the corner into the gas station in the middle of the desert, I thought it was odd to see a large bronze statue of General Patton.  Evidently, the site was once the entrance to the WWII desert training center, Camp Young, and was the largest military installation in most of the western states at the time.  I later came to find out that General Patton was the first commander of the site that ended up training over one million soldiers going into the WWII effort.  But, honestly, I didn’t have time to learn all this while we were on-site.  We needed to gas up and get going.  So of course, one of the bathrooms was out of order and a long line of ladies were lined up to discreetly use the men’s room.  Thankfully, that did not deter Rick, and I followed his lead to take the next available spot in the latrine regardless of gender occupancy.

No sooner than we got back on the road did we learn that his car mates voted down Jeff’s In-n-Out initiative and that we were targeting a health food café in Palm Springs instead.  At this point, I was up for some clean GMO free and fresh food with natural immunity boosters considering some of the cuisine consumed earlier throughout the tour.  Besides that, I think Megan had hit her limit of out of state fast food chains and she was driving, so that might’ve factored into the decision.

I-5

We were racing against the clock at this point to try and arrive home within the same calendar day.  Feeling energized and focused, I was determined to get to I-5 in good time for the familiar drive home.  I turned the stereo over to Rick and Black Sabbath guided us over the Pasadena freeway towards the grapevine.  The band had already said their goodbyes in Palm Springs as Rick and I were East Bay creatures, and the rest of the group resided across a bridge in San Francisco.  We were so close to home we could taste it!

It was outside the Patterson turn off that Rick began negotiating with his wife via text:

Okay, we’re about 70 miles out.  Go ahead and get a glass of wine going.  In fact, don’t wait for me- just drink the whole bottle.  I’ll be there in no time to….

Some things should just be kept private I suppose.

–       –

I arrived home past the midnight hour and after unloading and cleaning up for a night’s sleep climbed into my own bed.  I’m okay with sleeping on the occasional couch, air mattress, hotel bed, or floor- well, I take that back, I’m not so keen on sleeping on floors, especially as I recall the concrete surface of a LA loft I had occasion to curl up on in my travelling days with the SF rock band SPOKE (gratitude to Duff Ferguson!).  However, this was my own Tempur-Pedic memory foam mattress that contained the warm slumber of my wife next to me.   Mind you, Rick wasn’t a bad cuddler, and Max was beginning to come around, but home was good.  Home was very good.

Tour Beard Diaries SXSW 2014 Conclusion

Tour Beard Diaries SXSW 2014 Conclusion

 

 

Epilogue

Jeff on Kimmel

Guitar Center had been extraordinarily generous with Jeff and the promotion behind his new EP along with the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show performance in December 2013 and it felt like the shot that he had been working towards so diligently.  Jeff, along with being a great talent, also displayed the energy and cunning of a wild dog.  He is okay being the lone wolf, but is instinctually wired to run in packs, so when he learned of the late night television performance opportunity, he immediately set out to bring as many of his friends as he could to share in the experience.

Having performed with Jeff for over a year now, he has continually expressed his appreciation for the friends around him, and as evidence I have enjoyed his audience banter when introducing the band:

We are Def Leppard, (long pause) and on the stage with me are some of my best friends, on drums…on bass…on lead guitar…

Load In for KimmelWith my tenure came the benefit of joining the entourage that performed on the Kimmel stage.  We were all put up in a group of rooms at the Loews Hotel across the street from the El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Blvd.  On the day of the show, Jeff didn’t limit his generosity to just the band that had grown to a 10-Piece for the performance, but also made sure he could bring in the talents of Dave Tweedie (OONA), producer and engineer par excellence, to assist with sound for the performance.  With Dave, lead-singer of OONA and social media consultant for the day, Oona Garthwaite was there to provide behind the scenes moral support; a testament to her friendship with everybody as she excels in the spotlight herself.

One can imagine the buzz of publicists, business managers, hangers on, and family members that a big Hollywood sensation might bring to the green room at Kimmel, but Jeff’s clan, if not rivaled the above, could’ve very well surpassed the usual capacity of the small dressing rooms and accompanying lounge.  Having been there in the green room when it was standing room only myself, I can attest to the accuracy of the above assessment.

Kimmel Perfromance Full BandWhen I have been asked about the performance I typically hear, “were you nervous?”  My reply has always been, “no,” and generally that is quite accurate.  However, as with any occasion to step up in front of and under the scrutiny of a large audience, there is some anxiety to be had.  Everybody handles it differently.  In Jeff’s case I think it was keeping busy and pinging between photo shoot to interview back to photo shoot on to another back-stage interview.  It also helped that his manager, Allie Koch, was there to ensure that the details were handled so Jeff didn’t have to stress about it.  On a day like the one it was where national late night talk show performances hadn’t become pedestrian fodder for Jeff yet, it would be like having a completely on the ball wedding coordinator on a couple’s big day to manage all of the moving parts so the betrothed would be able to have their photo shoot in the vineyards and get to eat the catered high cuisine before servers cleared the plates (I know from personal experience, unfortunately, we did not have such a person on my wedding day).

In any case, Jeff thrives when surrounded by the ones he loves, and those who love him.  As an aside, no offense to anybody, but I am more of a quiet room in solitude or at least share a clean green room and keep the visitors to a minimum kind of guy, so it was admirable and in complete opposition to my own sensibilities to see how Jeff came alive in the atmosphere that encircled him; although, I could get used to it.

Soundcheck KimmelWhen we all took the stage for sound check, the Kimmel staff had everything so completely dialed in that I think only one minor tweak had to occur.  That is a huge difference from many of the mid-level clubs I’ve had occasion to perform where a band goes through a whole process to get the balance just right in sound check only to experience all settings to have completely disappeared upon downbeat (along with the engineer him or herself as well too often).

Some coffee, a kale ginger salad, and competitive billiards game on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! Lounge pool table checked off the agenda, the green room suddenly had to be cleared of all extended family and friends, and we were left with just the band and management.  Every once in a while make-up or hair would come into the room, and with the exception of a little anti-shine for most of us, Jeff had to be ready for his close-up and got a little more treatment.  Megan was also the recipient of make-up and hair attention only because somebody had accidentally spilled their beer all over her hair when greeting her earlier and damage control had to spring into action- an interesting turn of events for one who doesn’t drink.  Her hair may not have smelled great by show time, but it sure looked good!

As an aside, I have had the occasion to get my hair cut by stylist Richard Gulledge of Salon Textures, and it brought him a great deal of pride to learn that when the production manager stopped into the room to poll who needed hair assistance, he looked directly at me and said, “aw, your fine.”

The band had two shows following the Jimmy Kimmel performance, one at the Viper Room in Hollywood, and another in San Diego.  If our experience on the first night was any indication, it was going to be a good run.  In fact, it seemed that the show was going to set into action a whole variety of opportunities including performing the Anaheim NAMM show in January of 2014, a SXSW tour in March, and other prospective tours that could include the Southeast, Pacific Northwest, and Northeast.

What was more evident of the glee this opportunity brought to everybody was the post Kimmel glow (after we were unceremoniously asked to leave the building and had to load our gear out to Hollywood Blvd- after all, it was the show’s “Friday” and everybody wanted to get home!) when Jeff walked into the Pig ‘n’ Whistle and the entire bar filled with fans, friends, family and unknown patrons rose to their feet to congratulate him with a standing ovation that lasted over several minutes.  It was the kind of reception that could stand to be repeated a number of times.

In any case, back to the pre-show lead up, we were cued to film a brief pre-commercial bumper that caught the band in its entirety bounding up the El Capitan Theater stairs towards the Sony Indoor Stage.  Then the show started and we were simply counting down the segments until our time to perform.

The production manager collected all the performers in the green room and we were quietly directed through a control room on our way to the stage where Jimmy Kimmel himself shook the hand of every single band member.  He must’ve heard how many players there were and wanted to see for himself how Jeff was going to fit the majority of the San Francisco singer-songwriter community on his stage, or he was just a very courteous and encouraging fellow.  By the time he got to me in line I marveled at two distinct observations about Jimmy Kimmel in person, 1) he was taller than I expected, and, 2) his hands were really, really soft.   Weird.

We took our places on stage, looked out at a full audience and heard the countdown to go live through our in-ear monitors as it was turned over to Jimmy on camera, “This is a brand new EP! It’s called ‘In Spite of Everything’, here with the song ‘Save Me’- JEFF CAMPBELL!”

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

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