Music, Mountains & Oceans

Time passes, things seem to move quickly, passing in a blur.  The last month has been so full, and I’m having a tough time keeping up.  Here’s a recap of some of my time since returning from tour.

7/13/18 through 7/23/18

For a number of years, I played drums in my friend Arann Harris’ band on a pretty regular basis.  A little over two years ago, he semi-retired from playing shows with the full band, and I kinda retired with him.  He calls me once or twice a year to play the select show, and this weekend I’d signed up to play with him at the Rivertown Revival in Petaluma. 

We arranged to rehearse at his mom's farm in west Petaluma, which we did.   After putting in a couple of hours, I had to rush off to the coast to photograph the intimate wedding of a friend scheduled to take place around sunset.  The idea was to get some portraits as the sun was going down, but once I got within 1/4 mile of the ocean the fog was pea-soup thick.  Fog and overcast light happens to be pretty great for photography, so I wasn't disappointed at all.  I ended up getting some photos I'm really happy with that have that dreamy, mystical quality that only the fog can give you.

The next day was Rivertown Revival, which is held right on the waterfront near downtown Petaluma and is a kinda quasi-Steampunk thing with vendors and food and live music and people in weird costumes.  I hadn’t been in a while, and it was actually enjoyable (and novel) to be at a music festival as a performer and not as a photographer.  For a few reasons, I consciously decided to not bring my camera at all.  It was pretty nice to just wander and enjoy my surroundings in real time.  I ran into a number of people I love and got to have some quality – if sometimes brief – check-ins.  I even had a total stranger come up and tell me how much she appreciates my photography work and feels inspired by what I do.  I’m always amazed when stuff like that happens, and it’s heart-warming and fortifying. 

We performed as scheduled, and it’s always a treat to play music with these dudes.  Mike James, Jason Carr and Arann are some of my favorite people to play music with, and playing with them is like slipping on a comfortable pair of fur-lined slippers. 

Pre-game prayer circle with the boys

Pre-game prayer circle with the boys

A couple days later I found myself driving to Reno to film my friend Tyler’s band, Tumbledown House, who were performing in an outdoor amphitheater outside of town.  I left early in the day so I could stop in Tahoe and soak it up for a minute. I’d been pining a Tahoe visit for a while but hadn’t been able to carve out the time just yet.  I stopped at my favorite swimming hole in the South Fork of the American River that runs along Hwy 50 and had a wonderfully refreshing dip.  Made some lunch and talked to my daughter Aurora, who’d been living in NYC for the last number of weeks.  She’s thinking of moving there when she graduates from UC Santa Cruz next year, and the idea of her doing that is exciting.  It means I’ll see her less often (probably), but I think New York has so much to offer her, and I love seeing her get excited about something big and potentially challenging. 

Reno was hot as fuck, and setup/soundcheck time at the venue was pretty intense in that regard.  But after the sun went down, it was pretty gorgeous out.  TDH played a really great set, and the venue looked and sounded great.  It was challenging but fun to figure out how to film them without getting close to them (the stage was big and I couldn’t get near them without being overly obvious and blocking the view of paying attendees), but I think I got some good footage. 

The next day I woke early and headed back through Tahoe again, stopping for a walk up around Kingsbury Pass then taking a long and leisurely drive around the Lake through Tahoe City and around the west side.  This is the area where my parents used to own a cabin, and I always enjoy taking the opportunity to say hello.  I’d spent many a summer and winter there all throughout my childhood and feel a super strong connection to it.  Even early in the morning, some parts of the highway were choked with tourists and RVs, which is tough to take.  I think I’ll head back in the fall when the crowds have thinned out a bit.

Made my way to San Francisco, where I’d scheduled time to see a new therapist.  There’s been a lot of uncomfortable stuff going on in my head and heart for the last month or two, and I realized early on that in order to deal with this stuff, I’m gonna have to get some help from a qualified professional.  The appointment went well, but it made clear how much inner work this could end up being.  I’m glad to do it, but it’s not fun. Met up with Megan and spent an enjoyable evening together, despite my fragile post-therapy state. 

I headed back to the heat miser that is Mendocino County to do a little bit of work, then went to Willits to pick Mickey up and take him out to the coast to escape the heat.  We had a lot of great conversation on the way (as we always do when we take road trips together), and arrived in Mendocino in the late afternoon as the temperature hit the perfect point.  We walked along the beach, enjoying the cold dousing our feet got when the water from the incoming tide gently slid over them.  We walked around town, got some books from the bookstore, then headed to Fort Bragg for some dinner.  Got back to Willits well after the heat of the day had transmuted into the cool of the evening.

But things didn’t stop there.  I headed down to Bodega the next day to film a music video for my friends the Rainbow Girls.  They’d arranged to throw a small party for about 50 close friends, with the event resembling their Bodega Day party that happened back in April.  They wanted to have the video feature their community of musicians/artists/weirdos doing what they love to do… perform and create and celebrate.  I had lots of time in the afternoon to try and figure out what I was going to do (because I’m a noob filmmaker and had no real shot list or game plan or anything that would be something professional), and began capturing footage as soon as people began trickling in.  Around 6:00 or so, the musical performances started in their little barn, and I began the frantic running back and forth trying to capture that, as well as getting footage of people just hanging out and enjoying the party.  

We filmed the girls playing along with the song for the actual music video part of the thing, which can be a little awkward for musicians who aren’t particularly inclined to lipsync their songs.  They were troopers and we ran through the song a few times before resuming the party.  There was another run-through or five of the song later in the night, when there was a substantial crowd to be an audience for the band and the little courtyard outside the barn was beautifully lit and dreamy.   I was glad to get a little assistance from Bradley Cox, an amazing and talented photographer who lives on the property with the girls and offered to film some footage as well.  We wrapped that part of the evening up and the performances resumed.  There were actually performances scheduled to begin every hour or so all through the night, up until 6 AM.  I of course needed to get myself to bed around 11:30 or so, which I did with relish and relief.

I spent all of the next day parked by the ocean, where I sat in the van and worked on photos from the end of tour and started trying to edit video from the tour as well.  It was a pretty enjoyable way to spend the day, listening to the surf pound on the beach below and having some quiet time to focus and work without distraction.  I left Bodega Bay mid-afternoon and made my way down to my parents’ house since I haven’t visited for over a month and felt like I’d enjoy an evening back at the old family house.  I also fully admit that visiting them gives me an opportunity to do some thorough laundry and cleaning out of the van, which I was in desperate need of doing.  I spent some time with them catching up as well and got myself to bed early.

The next day I drove down to San Jose to visit one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mike Bruce and his family.  Mike and I met way back in High School, had been roommates for a time, played in a band together, and is one of the only people I’ve sustained a continuous friendship with since the old days.  Seeing him is always a pleasure, and his kids are growing up faster than I can keep up with.  Always so good to see them all.

I headed to San Mateo to meet up with Megan to celebrate the birthday of our friend TJ’s boyfriend Jeff.  There was BBQ oysters, sausage and other yummy foods, plus some interesting conversation.  It’s always a bit awkward feeling when I have to hang out at a family gathering with a family I’ve never met before, but my awkwardness didn’t last long as everyone was super nice and helped me feel at ease.  I did have to excuse myself when the birthday cake was unveiled, since I’ve been unable to eat anything sweet for a few years and this time it was particularly torturous to watch everyone stuff their faces with the delicious looking chocolate layer cake.  Megan and I left the party as it got dark and made our way up to her place in SF to stay for the night.

After spending the morning together, we parted ways and I headed back to Ukiah to do some work, not being stoked at all to be back in the stifling heat.  Luckily I’d arranged to connect with my friend Aviva, a talented musician and fellow Capoerista who’d booked time in a gorgeous house on the top of McNab Ranch to record her first record.  She’d hired me to come up and make some photos of the process and just hang out, which I was glad to do.  The road was rough and steep and I surprised myself by getting my van all the way to the top, not without sustaining a little bit of discombobulation and disarray inside the van from all the jostling though.

The time spent with Aviva and her band, which includes Matt from Marty O’Reilly’s band, was magical.  They were recording in a small wooden outbuilding with full-size sliding doors open on two sides, giving the room a partial outdoor feel and letting in lots of natural light.  The property sits on top of the mountain and is dotted with huge oak and madrone trees and silent in the way that only places far removed from populated areas can be.  Spending time in places like this are what keeps me coming back to Mendocino County over and over again.  There are things about living out in the country that can get old and cumbersome, but relaxing in a hammock suspended between two huge oak trees, surrounded by acres of pristine woods and open meadows with only the sounds of insects and chirping birds never does.

They did some recording, then took a long break for dinner, then resumed recording back in the barn until almost midnight.  The music is sweet and somewhat whimsical, folky and intimate, unique and familiar.  Watching talented musicians work together to create and record a musical moment is something I always appreciate, and making photos of it is something special.