Tour ended last week, but it really started nine months ago. Way before booking began, way before desperately emailing bands I’d never heard of, and way, way, way before 3,030+ miles in a stinky van with two bearded partners in crime.
A lot of cool stuff happened along the way, and I’ll get to that. Amazing bands (Sweeping Exits are the current fave), jumping off High Rocks into chilly river water, a random dancing man in a hot dog suit, not one but TWO cars driving directly into two separate buildings .... Like I said, I will totally get to that in due time.
For now, though, I invite you to join me on a journey of installments as I break down Hayley and the Crushers first Pacific Northwest Tour!
I’ll just push this pile of dirty clothes over, move the cooler of Coke Zero this way, and throw the merch in the back. There! Plenty of room for you in the van.
Hop on in!
As I was saying before, the seed of this tour was actually planted in December of last year, around Christmas, with a Facebook Message from a random guy named Ernie.
The only Ernie I have ever known lived on Sesame Street, and I instantly liked the ring of it. As a child of the 90s with my very own Tamagotchi and a sleeve full of choice POGS, I can say that original gay super-couple Bert and Ernie taught me much about how to be a good friend.
My internet friendship with a real life Ernie started with a few simple words of encouragement: “Ernie: Thanks for making all that awesome rock and roll. You are the coolest. Happy holiday. Take care.”
My little po-dunk band from San Luis Obispo, CA Hayley and the Crushers was only a year and a half old at this time, with a 4-song EP and a new release just out. Our first full length album, Jewel Case., had just been put out two months prior on my friend’s DIY label, and I still had that amazing “new album feeling”—the feeling that this thing could still explode like a bomb!
As any DIY musician will flatly tell you, albums don’t “explode like bombs” as much as they “precipitate like scattered showers.” Albums seep into the earth at random. They infect organisms slowly, in spaces and places you could never predict.
Like wildflowers, listeners and supporters pop up seemingly out of nowhere. I adore this part of the internet (I can take or leave the rest). In fact, I send messages to bands and artists I like all the time. They don’t always answer, but sometimes they do. Note: STOP LURKING AND START SPREADING THE LOVE. TELL AN ARTIST YOU LOVE THAT YOU LOVE THEIR ART. DO IT RIGHT NOW, I’LL WAIT.
But I digress... Let’s get back to how this tour was spawned, in roughly the amount of time it takes to make a human baby. Ew.
Why go this far back? Maybe it can be helpful to you. Or inspire you to talk to strangers? It just feels appropriate to give credit where it’s due and to honor the simple connections that started the whole thing. These connections are what made the whole trip so rewarding.
I could have let Ernie’s sincere, brief words fill me up, say thank you, send a cute pic of a cat playing guitar, and never talk to him again (you know, the internet way - keep it superficial and filled with cats).
But I’m curious about people. It’s my thing. It’s what keeps me in business, both financially and emotionally. Some people really like this about me, some people find it suspicious. It isn’t a bad thing when it comes to booking; and I’d say an open heart helps in all aspects of life.
All I can say is that I really wanted to know who this guy was, and could I send him a CD or cassette? What made him tick? What was his sign? How was the music scene where he lived different from ours? Sometimes when I ask these kind of questions, people get cold feet and kind of slink bashfully away, back into the anonymous social media landscape.
Recently, a girl with the same name as me (spelled slightly differently) bought some merch. I enthusiastically sent off a package to Brooklyn with a note: “To my East Coast twin, wear this shirt with pride. Use our powers for good, not evil!” She took a pic for her social media, but we didn’t become bicoastal same-name pen pals, as I’d secretly hoped.
Ernie was no shrinking violet, though. He was happy to tell me he lived in Seattle, a magical, mythical place that I had visited for the first time as an adult the year prior for my birthday. On the plane, I read, “Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl” by Carrie Brownstein (click here for my self-imposed book report), which only intensified the romance of this delightfully dreary place, so much moodier than hot, dry, always-smiling California (Seattle is the cooler drama-kid older sister, the Daria to CA’s Quinn). In our heart of hearts, Reid and I are seriously considering moving up there (after this tour, we are kind of in love with Bellingham and Vancouver, WA – but more on that later).
Ernie wasn’t really sure how he’d stumbled upon our tunes, it was just on his radar probably thanks to other bands who liked us—but it didn’t really matter how it happened. All that mattered was I suddenly had a Seattle friend!
Not only did Ernie and I strike up a mean FB message streak (he would send me videos of bands and talk about the scene there; I would send him reporter-esque questions about Seattle and the surrounding lands). We also had something juicy in common: A mutual, undying love for the iconic Seattle band Tacocat, whom we’d played with the summer before when they were on a West Coast tour.
I had basically fallen head over heals for this gaggle of big, bodacious personalities. I have to say here: Tacocat’s multicolored magic, their fun and sun girlie-and-proud sound, is the high dose of Vitamin C that is needed in this bleak world of fascism and fear.
We need fearlessly political artists, yes, but we also need FUN bands. We need bands that remind us why we want to be here on this planet, that remind us to look up at the sky at night and ponder this whole big experiment and maybe even laugh. Many of the bands we played with on this tour did that. Bands you can dance and kiss to! This is what Hayley and the Crushers aim to do, too.
Our drummer, Gabriel, had been a longtime fan of Tacocat when we played that summer 2016 show. As he got his copy of Lost Time signed by the band – after chatting with singer Emily - he nearly fell over with glee. He had been playing it on repeat at his work, Boo Boo Records, for months on end, and no one had complained. In fact, people would just keep commenting, “Who is this? It’s so catchy.” THAT IS THE SIGN OF A GOOD ALBUM, PEOPLE.
We still talk about how hilarious it was that drummer Lelah and guitarist Eric showed up at the gig with huge, mischievous grins and bags of Big Dogs apparel (Lelah wore her Big Dog PJs on stage). To say NOTHING of bassist Bree’s unapologetic love of white wine (I understand that keenly), and plastic gem-coated bass guitar...
Oops. Fell into a Tacocat hole. Not again! When you talk about Seattle music, it tends to happen. Just like you tend to meet big-hearted people who are unapologetically weird and (for some reason) find yourself justifying to yourself a sudden urge...a need(!!!!) for $8 artisanal jelly donuts.
But I soon found out Ernie had his own fabulous band, too: Slow Elk. This band is like something I would imagine would come out of New York in the late 70s – slightly too smart for me, beautifully jarring and subversive. It is dissident and wild and experimental, with haunting horns and thumping unstoppable bass (no guitar)...and, of course, Ernie’s vocals, which have the urgency of a pissed off, dying man’s last gasp – an artist wise beyond his years trying to warn the rest of us to live our lives because THIS IS ALL THERE IS!
Ernie even had advice for the drive up and which bands might be cool to play with us, if we ever made our way that far north. I sunk into the guest room bed at my mom’s house in Lomita, Ca (mind you, this is still Christmas time at my mom's) and got comfy with the wild idea of a Pacific Northwest Tour.
Lush and green and teaming with birds and bands, the entire Pacific Northwest holds a special place in my heart. Some family and friends have relocated to Seattle and Portland both. As for the tour, I selfishly had my own desire to be in a forest and smell the delicious wet earth.
But...doubt! The mind always doubts.
Could I really book a tour in place where I knew basically no one? With a newish, unknown band fronted by a total dork? I am only opening up the dark regions of my mind to you in the hopes that you will realize that everyone has doubts, and they are all really stupid.
I had only booked one other Oregon tour about five years before, and I had made a lot of mistakes when booking the dates. My feelings about the trip where overwhelmingly positive, but it wasn’t a “success” for the band, Red Eye Junction.
This is what my brain told me, referencing back in 2012:
Booking is hard! We didn’t even get as far as Portland last time (much less to Seattle), as I was extremely green and every venue needed 4-6 months in advance to get us on the calendar. I sent hundreds of emails and called so many bars I knew the barmaids by name, when they worked, and which other bartenders they had spats with. Bars have some juicy gossip, I’ll tell ya that much.
I lost my voice! On that 2012 tour—with country band Red Eye Junction—I had learned how NOT to sing, as I lost my voice and slurped tea with tons of honey for most of the journey. Funny, huh? Still, I had also kind of learned what it meant to be a front woman. And I had grown very protective of my voice since. I had never really wrecked my voice again to that extent, even playing and screaming with my old punk band Magazine Dirty for multiple dates.
People’s schedules, man! We had dealt with last-minute lineup changes that always seems to happen before you make a big band decision (we had found a brand new guitarist at the last minute, then had to find another one when that guy peaced out at the very-very last min). Luckily, the Crushers consist of my husband and our good friend, who is totes dependable.
No one showed up last time! Although we found amazing swimming holes and hilarious inside jokes on the last trip, we had also found largely empty clubs, sleepy towns more interested in football than music. This was largely due to the fact that (and I am showing you how green I was) I hadn’t invited any other bands to play at our shows. For any newbies out there: THIS IS A ROOKIE MISTAKE!
My brain was smart in warning me about my previous mistakes, but not entirely warranted in its obnoxious whining.
I decided that I could totally do this. I mean, look what happened when I reached out to one nice person!
In fact, the world was starting setting itself up for our arrival in this weird and inexplicable way...
Miraculously, a week before the trip, I won $500 playing a dice game at the local Elk’s Lodge, which covered the cost of our new tour T-shirts with a little extra.
I reached out to people who actually gave a shit about the local scenes, and they came through with flying colors. I took a massive leap of faith. I depended on those people and found nothing but love and support!!! They introduced me to even more amazing people!!! For that I am so so so grateful!!!!! And guess what, PEOPLE SHOWED UP TO OUR GIGS BECAUSE THE BANDS WE PLAYED WITH ARE KILLER!
I will post more on the awesome bands we had the pleasure to play with in the next installment! They are:
These are not bands just showed up, played their set, and high-tailed it out of there. They danced and laughed with us, sang karaoke with us, and I am now rocking out to their tunes and can’t wait to come back and do it again. Yas.
Another weird “world has our back” thing? ...At literally EVERY show we played, except our last show, we found someone from our stomping grounds, CA’s Central Coast. Not even kidding, here. Old high school friends of mine showed up, good homies of Gabriel’s came through, and even THE guy who got Reid into comic books (It was Swamp Thing, and the dude’s name is Rich) showed up. These are folks we knew from previous lives in the tiniest towns of California, the Bay Area and beyond. We even stayed with my friend Ashley, former editor-in-chief of the local newspaper I work for in San Luis Obispo. My aunt, uncle, and cousins put us up for a few nights in Clackamas (or as I now like to call it The Muthafuckin CLACK).
I guess it’s true. There is a great migration north! It’s probably pissing off all the natives up there, but are dreamy-eyed Californias really worse than home-grown brogrammers and gun lovin’ Libertarians?
After two weeks on the road, sleeping in a van for most of it, I am very happy to be home with my chickens and dogs and real life bed and my ability to make myself actual food.
But I am also thinking a lot about what I experienced up north and sensing a change coming. I hope you’ll come with me as I recount more of this weird and wondrous adventure...from the smell of the great evergreen pines (and legal weed) to the slap-happy sound of the Seinfeld theme song, which soothed our hungover minds at real life Seinfeld-inspired diner, Little Jerry’s, located in Tacoma, WA. I kid you not! That really is a real life place!
….And it’s in a magical land where hiking boots are the norm (even for rockers) and people don’t really ever dance (even if they like you), but they DO have a music scene worth bragging about.