Postcards – Scout Niblett Tour Diary Pt. 8

Our buddy Pete Schreiner (Thousand Arrows, The Coke Dares, Magnolia Electric Company, Sam Lowry & The Circumstance) is adding a new gig to his resume as he plays sideman to Scout Niblett on her current tour.  Pete is keeping us in the loop of the ups and downs of the road with this tour diary.

Yesterday the van had been hit-and-run side-swiped while Scout was at the pool. Only the driver’s side mirror had been damaged.  The frame was still intact but the mirror glass was completely gone. So first mission of the day: get a temporary mirror installed for the trip home.  There was an Autozone three blocks away and they had a cheapo that we duct-taped on. I try to always have a roll in the bass case and this was its first action of the tour. The angle wasn’t quite perfect but useable so the mirror was good to go.  Hit up a nearby knock-off Trader Joe type of grocery store for some breakfast and snack stuff.  It’s a good idea to hit these places or a Whole Foods for a chance to eat non-greasy garbage when traveling. Long drives plus random-exit options equal poor health.  Fruit, vegetables, hummus, etc. are stocked up.  Let’s drive to Oakland.

Drove through some beautiful California Hills on the way. i don’t come through this part of the country too much.  It’s cool to see the orchards up close. Miles on miles of perfect rows of citrus trees, berries, vines, and plants I don’t recognize, creating eye-candy psychedelic patterns as they are observed from a van passing at 70 mph. Hazy mountain ranges in the background.  Touring down the West Coast is pretty nice. Shows are generally decent and not too far apart and the weather is usually good enough in the Northern part and great in the Southern part. But this is the first time I’ve done it with a starting point ON the West Coast. Every other time, we have driven from the Midwest across one of the couple central or northern routes across the Great Plains to get out West. Those drives are always grueling. There aren’t a lot of places to play in that part of the country just due to the vastness and less dense population. So you wind up with back-to-back-to-back 12 hour van days. No fun. No extra time to feel human for a little while. No time for a walk. No time for a real meal. Smelly cramped van to smelly club to smelly crash spot. Go to bed late. Get up early. Repeat. Hope there’s coffee.


So this tour had the West Coast advantages without the usual three-day prep time. Still some long drives but not every day. This one was six hours or so. Not bad. At least on paper it was 6-ish. Hit some traffic right before the Bay bridge.  A new bridge is underway and there is a weird temporary bridge stub that’s been installed while the work progresses.  Big engineering projects fascinate me and the fact that this one basically has a giant scab-bridge section that has to be as solid as an actual bridge is almost incredible. Nice view of the city. Doesn’t take long from there to pull up at Vitus.  It’s a newer club (2 months old) that was formerly a blues-bar.  Tall ceiling with decor that’s  reminiscent of New Orleans. The club stage has a house Hammond B-3 that’s available for the bands to use. Best part is that one of the owners, Damon, is a guy I knew in Bloomington 15 years ago.  He was part of an all-ages DIY show space there called Nervous. I don’t know what all he’s been up to in the meantime, besides being a musician, but it’s awesome to me that he’s still kinda doing the same thing on a bigger level. After sound check, Dan and I walk six blocks to see another former-Bloomingtonian and musician, TV Mike. He’s bartending and can talk for a bit. He’s actually playing Vitus tomorrow when we’re across the bay. Running into folks and making new friends to run into next time are two of the best things about touring. Quick catch-ups and see-ya-next time…


I had some eggs for dinner around the corner at the Buttercup Diner. No frills, good diner food for sort of cheap. I think I witnessed an informant-policeman interaction. I didn’t see the conversation directly but a shifty-eyed dude on his cell phone walked around the corner by the restrooms and then a cop followed right behind him. They were somewhere for a few minutes, then walked out in reverse order, dude still on the cellie. Should’ve left at intervals, I thought, but I’m no criminal justice expert. Cop had a bite with his partner, cell dude was outta there.


Show was starting. Bam Bam started things off. Local two piece rock band playing noisy proto-rock. Good set. Then Picastro rocked it. Room is a little boomy for loud stuff but not too bad. Good set too. Then we were up. Couple dudes up front, one in particular, being obnoxious but enthusiastic about the show. I wasn’t sure if he was on drugs, mentally disabled, or what. Clapping during a song loudly, and purposefully off-beat, isn’t usually a compliment. Whooping along at parts he liked could’ve been, but on the ballads seemed inappropriate. His presence was weird but despite it the show was good. We played the loud rockers last. After the show he came and thanked us and wanted us to sign some baseball-card sized quirky thing for his friend’s birthday. I dunno.

Last drinks and drive to San Francisco. Staying at Dan’s friend Dave’s warehouse in the Mission. He and some other folks live there amongst art projects and studio rooms. The basement is a big space for shows. The place is decorated and built from salvaged stuff of all kinds. It’s cool and seems to be an ever-changing work-in-progress.  The place tends to be an after-party spot so some people are hanging out as we get ready for bed. I found a  camping roll to put down under my thin sleeping bag on the wooden warehouse floor.  I’m next to the overhead doors so it’s drafty and loud but I needed to be near one of the few power outlets so I could charge the phone and still hear the alarm. The internet wifi signal has been intermittent  and it’s gone now. I don’t see any smoke alarms but I do see a lot of extension cords strung all over. I have a straight shot to the one exterior door I know of; don’t see any windows at all.


I think this is the first time I’ve been to the Bay Area since Evan died.  That happened in Oakland and I’m not a superstitious person but I’m still glad we aren’t sleeping over on that side.  This trip might cure the uneasy feeling I have about SF/Oakland that I have lingering about his death.  I know he liked it out here and lived a lot of good times here.


Touring is risky—even just playing the odds spending so much time on the highways is dangerous.  But you’re also crashing with people you may not know; in buildings of unknown condition;  moving in and out of bars, spaces, homes always having to worry about guitars, gear, computers, personal effects being stolen; riding around in older-model vehicles with degrading parts. The music has to come out anyway; it forces it’s way out of the music-makers for the chance to connect in another person—another living person who may also be risking it all to hear it. Living life is risky and simply because of that I guess we gotta keep on.



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