Actually, hang on. Stop with all the engine revving, we may have to throw the old gal in reverse for a few minutes and back up a few. There were some days in between the Tavern on the Gruene jamtacular and the Deli gigs, most of which were spent at various bars and locales in and around New Braunfels. I spent Monday night with Peaches and Rio at the cabin I have since dubbed the Songwriter's Compound, a place of magic and spiders that is ultimately conducive to getting things done, and by things I mean writing songs, making coffee, and tagging the walls with John Moreland quotes. I would return to Songwriter Compound the following week, but slow the hell down, man. We'll get there, I promise.
|Songwriter Compound - View|
Tuesday began with yet another fantastic bloody mary at the Black Whale pub in downtown New Braunfels with the dynamic duo of Rio Tripiano and Jon "Peaches" Schmig taking us around and showing us the best places to day drink in town. Some of you may remember ole Peaches from his stint as merch dude/driver/road wrangler for we Damn Quails in the second and third year of our so called career. He's currently in the employ of another little band you've probably heard of known as Uncle Damn Lucius. If you don't know Rio Tripiano, he's a songwritin' guitar pickin' madman with a heart of gold and a hat full of well written songs and more than a few oversized rings on his fingers. He's the current upstairs tenant of the Songwriter Compound and kind enough to let me crash his digs from time to time when I happen to be bumming around New Braunfels town. We've had some pretty epic twitter moments in the weeks hence, which you can follow on our twitter account, of which I am the keeper, master, and commander.
|Rio Tripiano - Songwriter and Ring Bearer|
Our ragtag crew started out with a bloody mary and some cigarettes on the front porch. By a stroke of luck and a well timed text message, I was fortunate enough to engineer a meeting with my well traveled friend at the Whale. After a single beer, we decided we should all take a short walk up the street to Scores for a few more beers, jager bombs, and cigarettes we could smoke indoors. I had a blast swapping stories, and after an all too fast few hours passed by, I slowly but surely bit back the hangover that had been chewing on me since I rolled out of bed that morning. Before you'd ever think it possible, afternoon had given way to early evening and previous obligations on WTF's (cute, right?) part required the parting of our ways.
We paid our tab at scores and made our way to that (nearly) last bastion of smoker's hope as well as one of the great live music venues of South Texas known as Billy's Ice House. Billy's was one of the first real venues we played when the Quails first began our forays into the Texas Music market just after the release of Down The Hatch. We've always been well received and well taken care of at Billy's and there's a lot to be said for a place that you can still smoke a cigarette on stage and play the damn guitar at the same time. The drinks are cheap and the bar staff is top notch, and there's live music pert near every night of the week. On this particular Tuesday, we got a chance to catch Kevin Galloway of Uncle Lucius playing an acoustic set, which was a treat to say the least. I've enjoyed crossing paths with Uncle Lucius from time to time over the past few years, most recently during Music Fest at Steamboat. They have phenomenal songs and a live show to match, but seeing Kevin perform in a stripped down environment with a cello for accompaniment was refreshing as hell and entertaining to boot. Twas a cosmic music made for the children of Aquarius, draped like a blanket of stars collapsing 'neath the light of a blood red killing moon.
After soaking up some songs and a little more jager, my buddy Rio was kind enough to drop me off at Gruene Hall so I could spend some time at one of my favorite places and get a little lost among the tourists and the regulars, not to mention watch a certain and particular beerslinger work some bar magic. Gruene Hall is a magical place, and the songswap that was going on in the front portion was exceedingly excellent. I met a man from Michigan that was a big Turnpike Troubadours fan and was kind enough to give me a lift back over to Billy's so I could catch my buddies Kyle Reed and Nate Rodriguez swap some tunes before last call. I was invited to play a few songs of my own, which I did, and eventually caught a ride back to Austin and crashed out at Blake's after a much needed and well deserved shower.
|Billy's Ice Jagerbomb|
We headed back to Norman the following morning and began the process of preparing our collective livers for a legendary and unprecedented two night stand at the Deli. If you've been following us for any amount of time, you know that the Deli is our home base of operations and the center of the musical universe as far as we're all concerned. The Deli is where we learned how to play together, where we developed that all important and intangible mental connection that defines the way we fit together musically. The Deli staff also happen to serve the most fantastic Jager Bomb on the face of the planet, and I definitely know my business when it comes to that particular beverage. I've been told it's the off brand energy drink on the gun that makes them so good, but I think the overall awesome vibe of the place has made its way into every single shot glass and big red cup. It comes out in every single drink served or beer poured, and the vibe is absolutely palpable.
Thursday night was magical, a full band acoustic set reminiscent of the old days when we took the stage every single Monday night with a rotating cast of Norman's finest players and blew the lid off the joint with gusto. It also marked a first in the life of young Kevin "Haystack" Calhoun, the youngest and second most recent addition to the Quails lineup. He's been playing with us almost a year now, but the fiddlin' wunderkind had never before taken the Deli stage with the band. It was a helluva first show for him.
The newest member of the band is one Mr Warren Field, a big bad mother of a bass player that used to play for Heater and also landed some awesome bass parts on Camille Harp's album. We love his ass, and the only reason I forgot to mention him in the first draft is because my brain no work good.
The band fell into our old rhythm just like a good pair of worn in shoes, comfortable and loose, but tight enough to keep the whole damn mess together. The lineup for the night included Stephen Baker, our insanely tasty saxophone player, Blake "Black Lemon" Lennon, guitarist/lap steel/mandolin extraordinaire, and none other than the goddamn magic man himself, Adam "Biggie" Rittenberry. Biggie is one of my best friends and it's been a rough past year not having him to my left. He is the most innately talented harmonica player I've ever seen or played with, and it was one of the happiest nights of music I've made in a long time. Our good friends Parker Milsap and Michael Rose, a musical powerhouse in their own right, were kind enough to stop by and play a few songs with us that damn near brought the walls down around the stage that Bob Moore built. Those kids (and I say that because they're still young as shit and I seem to be getting older by the day) started out playing a few early sets on a few Monday nights and, due to the fact that they were a few years too young to be allowed entry if they weren't actually on stage, would wait outside the window on stage right and watch us rock and roll from the sidewalk until we could invite them in to guest on a few songs. They used to set up lawn chairs and lounge around on the sidewalk, provided the weather was good, and it's really great to see them doing so well on the national circuit. Little bastards even played the Ryman Auditorium a while back and we're proud to call them both compadres. If you haven't seen them already, keep a big old open eye out for them.
|Biggie - Back in Action at the Deli|
The Friday night show was great, but due to a family illness, Biggie wasn't able to make it out. I also had a bunch of crazy guitar malfunctions that threw me for a loop and put a hitch in my musical step for a the first part of the night. I was desperately wishing I could swap out several eyeballs for two. Luckily, my friend and favorite guitar player in the world Mr. Alan Orebaugh was kind enough to loan me one of his many amazing Telecasters with which to finish the set, and things turned around before the night was over. After another nearly four hour set, the Deli had been thoroughly and once again rocked.
The next day, we took off for Kansas City sans Gabriel Marshall, who had suffered a minor but painful injury and was unable to make the show because of it. In typical Quails style, we made do with what we had, and instead of cancelling our first show at the Riot Room, we put Haystack on guitar and backup vocal duties and brought the house down to the cheers and applause of a nearly packed house. I took some requests for Gabe songs and played my own effed up versions of them, which the crowd really seemed to enjoy. We've actually toyed with the idea of a bizzaro set, in which I would perform Gabe songs and he would perform mine, but we've never actually gone through with it. I've re-enabled comments on this blog, so if that sounds like something you'd like to see one of these fine days, make a little comment and let me know what you think. Just don't post a bunch of dick jokes and drug references. Or do, what do I care? Isn't that really the really real reason that Al Gore invented the internet in the first place?
After I got back to OKC on Sunday, I loaded up my luxury sedan with a guitar and a few changes of clothes and headed on back down to New Braunfels. I made a beeline for Gruene Hall and spent a few hours drinking cold Budweiser in a perspiring bottle and marveling at the dedication and work ethic of the best beerslinger at the oldest dancehall in Texas. It was gospel Sunday and the band was on fire for both Jesus and song, a fire which was fed by mimosas. 6 point beer, and the fervor of a good sized crowd for a Sunday afternoon. I've always felt that playing music, especially with a band, to be akin to the feeling that most people get when they attend church. It's an ethereal connection shared by a group of players, one that perpetuates itself through the crowd like a grass fire and eventually feeds right back to the band, creating a loop of energy that feeds off itself until the last beat gets dropped and the last beer goes crashing into the bottom of the barrel.
After a few post shift beers, we spent the remainder of the night at Tavern on the Gruene, making new acquaintances and conversing in between casual bar games and re-ordering beverages. Sunday night gave way to Monday morning, and I headed out to the Songwriter Compound and spent the evening listening to John Moreland tunes and enjoying the solitude and siren song of the river rolling on down towards the ocean.
Rare occasions of collaboration aside, songwriting is an intensely personal and quiet occupation. It's been years since I was able to sit by myself in a peaceful and low key locale and just let the words and music come pouring out of me. I spent the entire day Monday just chasing down lines and melody, following them down whatever path they decided to choose and reining them back in towards the main path whenever they strayed too far. Ideas began to take shape, and before the week was out, I had several ideas and two completed, solid songs. There is no substitute for silence and solace when it comes to writing songs. You can sit around at coffee shops with your head buried in your lyric book, you can navigate your vehicle whilst tossing ideas back and forth in your mind, but when it comes to actually getting a little work done, a place that's free of distraction and outside influence is key. I had forgotten that, but it didn't take a whole lot of time to reacquaint myself with the idea.
Monday night is mine. You can't have it.
This, dear valued and trusted reader, is where this particular entry gets the axe. I'll continue playing catch up until we can finally rejoin the present somewhere in the next week or so. There's still quite a bit between hee and thee, so keep your eyes peeled for the next riveting chapter of this here blog I'm writing. Catch you on down the road,