Tour Recap #4: Coeur d’Alene, Seattle, Portland, Eugene


On the way to Coeur d’Alene from Fort Collins, I drove through Grand Teton N.P. and camped in Yellowstone, where I woke up to wolves howling outside of my tent. That part was a little eerie, and the night was VERY cold, but I had an amazing time.

Coeur d’Alene is a pretty little town. I played there on Friday, 10/12, at Calypsos Coffee, where the staff and crowd were very friendly. I met some nice folks. Idaho is cooler than people realize. I hope my short, declarative sentences convince you.

Seattle skyline

The next day I drove to Seattle and met up with an old Marshalltown friend at the restaurant she now manages, called Poppy. She hooked me up with some delicious food and then we went out for some tasty beverages around Capitol Hill. The next night I played at the Rendezvous/Jewelbox Theater with three other local musicians. I was disappointed with the turnout, but I was delighted to see some Iowa City folks in the house. Represent!

Beautiful work at Mississippi Records

Next was Portland. I drove through some nutso weather with some not-so-awesome drivers to get there, but I arrived safely on Monday, 10/15. I added a last-minute show that night at Ella Street Social Club (formerly the Towne Lounge) opening for Jeremiah Birnbaum. The crowd was sparse, but I was so happy to be back in Portland that I didn’t care. The next day I putzed around on Mississippi, which has drastically changed since my time there. Mississippi Records isn’t even on Mississippi anymore–oh my!

Toussaint in a realm @ The Waypost, 10/16

That night I played at The Waypost, which was hosting a debate viewing party before the show. My good friend Toussaint Perrault opened the show and played through a serious bout of jetlag, having just returned from a European tour with his band, Tu Fawning. I enjoyed the show immensely. It was fantastic to see lots of familiar faces there (including more Iowa folks!). I had lots of warm fuzzies!

I hung out in Portland for a couple more days and caught up with friends, ate scrumptious food, drank delicious beer, sang a little bit of Chopsticks karaoke, played a little Quizzy at Billy Ray’s (2nd place for the F*** Squad!), and had a boatload of fun.

Heavenly Oceans killing it at Sam Bonds, 10/19

I made the good ol’ I-5 trek down to Eugene on Friday, 10/19 (again with the nutso weather and awful drivers…). I was supposed to open for my friends Dave, Eric and Brian who formed a Testface-Tractor Operator-Pelletgun super group, but Eric’s wife Tiffani gave birth to their baby, Henry, a few days ahead of schedule (hooray!). So Dave and I formed an Alexis Stevens-Testface supergroup instead, and Heavenly Oceans closed the show. What can I say? It was a fabulous, nostalgia-filled night of awesome music.

I hung out in Eugene for a couple more days, walking down memory lane during the day and sleeping in a generous friend’s studio space at night. I got to sit in on Saltlick practice one day, which made me very happy. It was so great to see old friends and play with old bandmates, some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.

Grey skies over a blue Crater Lake. (Hey science, how does that work?)

This morning I left Eugene and headed to Crater Lake (never been), but my timing was pretty bad. Today was the first snowfall of the season and all but one of the roads to the lake were closed. (On the way I stopped at a scenic overlook and a reporter from Channel 9 in Eugene was there and interviewed me about the snow, so I may have been featured on the news tonight…fame!) I got a cold and cloudy view of the lake. The weather was crazy–warm and sunny one moment, freezing and hailing the next. I listened to a soft rock station (Whitney Houston and Fleetwood Mac aplenty) to get me through the nail-biting driving conditions.


Now I’m parked in Ashland for the night, then off to Redwood National Park tomorrow! Next show: San Francisco on Thursday.



Tour Recap #3: Burlington, Milwaukee, Northfield, St. Paul, Fargo, Fort Collins

One of approximately 8 million photos I took of the lovely New England scenery.

I was sad, indeed, to leave Maine, but the drive to Burlington, VT, was absolutely beautiful. In Burlington, I played at a great coffee shop/bar/restaurant called Radio Bean. I played first while folks were eating dinner and there was some sort of Spanish club meeting going on. People were polite, though, and a few dropped some change into the tip jar.

What up, Adirondacks.

The next day I headed toward Niagara Falls (with a stopover in Elizabethtown, NY). I accidentally made a reservation at a cheap hotel in Canada (incidentally, my room flooded that night from a “rube in a tub” on the next floor up). The Canadian side is hilarious. It’s like Las Vegas + Disneyland + Hollywood + beautiful waterfalls. I took a million photos and then kept heading west through Canada, then into Michigan, landing in Grand Rapids for a night.

Oh, Canada.

I planned to take a ferry from Grand Rapids to Milwaukee but it turned out to cost boatloads of cash (har har), so I ended up driving. The show in Milwaukee was small but fun. I played at Art Bar Riverwest with Meadow Parish and Lady Cannon, both of whom I really liked.

Caroline Smith at The Chapel in Northfield, MN

The next day I drove to Northfield, MN, where I played at The Chapel, run by Michael Morris of Dewi Sant. I opened for Paleo and Caroline Smith, who both have Iowa City connections. It was a great show. The audience was full of college students who sat quietly and seemed to really appreciate the music. And there was a lot to appreciate–Paleo and Caroline Smith are GOOD (and I think I did alright, too).

Making fans among the youth.

The next night I played at Nina’s Coffee Café in St. Paul. Some friends and family came to the show and listened to me try to sing over espresso makers Nina’s is a nice place…next time I’ll bring a PA, though. I caught up with family for the next couple of days and then played at Amsterdam Bar & Hall to end the weekend. The Sunland Singers started the show. They are a father-son duo (that night, anyway) who played some great old covers and got the crowd riled up. Then I played, and calmed everyone down.

Badass Badlands

The next day I drove up to Moorhead, MN/Fargo, ND. I played at Red Raven Espresso Room in Fargo, a nice little place with a friendly, albeit sparse, crowd. It was a fun night–I got to catch up with an Iowa City friend AND cross North Dakota off my list of states to visit, leaving just Alaska and Hawaii to reach all 50.

Carhenge. What?

On my way from Fargo to Fort Collins, CO, I stopped in Wall, SD (and did the obligatory visit to Wall Drug), drove through Badlands National Park (aMAZing), visited the Wounded Knee memorial in the Pine Ridge Reservation, and stumbled upon Carhenge in Alliance, NE. It was a fantastic two-day drive. I want to go back and do it again sometime.

Vee Device in Fort Collins

I made it to Fort Collins on a Wednesday night and played a house show at my good friend John Lindenbaum’s house (of Lonelyhearts fame) on Thursday night. John played first, then me, then a local Fort Collins band called Vee Device. It was a fun night (beer tastes better and works faster in Colorado) with a very generous crowd.

For the next few days I will be dog sitting two sweet and mischievous dogs, catching up on correspondences, planning the southern leg of my tour, and enjoying a warm fireplace and cable TV as it snows outside. Next stop: Yellowstone. It’s gonna be coooooold….

Rufus frolicking in the Colorado snow.

Tour Recap #2: Pittsburgh, NYC, Providence, Portland

Shows: 9
States: 14 + D.C.
Miles: 2,555

After spending a few lovely days in D.C., I backtracked west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is high on my list of places to end up some day. If you’ve never been there, you should go. It will surprise and enchant you. I played at a bar/restaurant called Hambone’s. I had no idea what to expect, but the booker, Jo, was super nice and helpful. Locals Sam Young (“The Marbits”) and Shay opened the show. The crowd was interesting–a few friendly Iowa folks and a bunch of Pittsburghers who had spent the day drinking at a beer fest. I wouldn’t describe them as enthralled listeners, but it was a good crowd and fun night overall.

I got my makeup on and my hair up pretty.

I headed back to D.C. for a couple more days of business, then headed up to NYC. There were a couple of magic moments on the drive. First, “America” by Simon & Garfunkel came on shuffle right as I entered the New Jersey Turnpike (“Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike / They’ve all come to look for America”), then “Atlantic City” by The Boss came on a few songs later. These were songs I was obsessed with as a young lass, dreaming of someday being an adult and traveling the country. Then, as I was pulling into Brooklyn, I had a great view of the light towers (it was the anniversary of 9/11).

I hung out in Red Hook for a few days with some good friends, then played at Branded Saloon in Brooklyn on Friday, 9/14. Kathryn Musilek (“North English”) and Benjamin Cartel of Kaiser Cartel also played. Kathryn is an Iowa City ex-pat who played with many of the same musicians I play with. She is incredibly talented, warm, and funny, as is her music partner, Ryan. It was a lot of fun playing with her and singing on some songs together. There was a good crowd filled with former Marshalltown and Iowa City residents. I had so much fun.

Branded Saloon in Brooklyn

The next day I drove up to Providence to play at Blue State Coffee. I wasn’t expecting much of a crowd since I don’t know a single person in Providence. My mom’s college roommate Helen and her husband Fred showed up–two friendly faces were better than none! I played for about 40 minutes to people who were studying or chatting with friends, then a Blue State barista, Ed Foster, played some tunes.

Portland. Wicked awesome.

I decided not to stay in Providence and instead headed up toward Portland, ME, where I would play the next night. I ended up sleeping in Amesbury, MA, and getting to Portland the next morning. Portland is wicked gorgeous. It was sunny and warm when I arrived, and I felt like a million bucks. I played at Dobrá Tea Room with a young lady named Marissa Owens. It was Marissa’s very first show ever. She was very charming and has a bright future in music. (Do I sound like an old lady? I feel like one.)

A sea bug dinner cost $9.99 in Maine. Disgusting and delicious.

The timing worked out perfectly for me to meet up with some Iowa City friends who were vacationing in Maine. They all came to the show in Portland, then we headed up to Tenant’s Harbor where they rented an adorable little farm house very close to the water. THEN, in a fortuitous twist of fate, we were upgraded to a beautiful new home right on the water. I’m typing this from the dining room overlooking the ocean now. From here I’ll head to Burlington, VT, where I’ll play on Friday, 9/21 at Radio Bean.

It will be very difficult to leave this place…

This is how Iowans do it in Maine.

Tour Recap #1: Ames, Des Moines, Iowa City, Chicago, Arlington

Shows: 5
States: 6 + D.C.
Miles: 1,227

The tour is off to a fantastic start. There’s been a lot of driving, a lot of catching up with friends, and best of all, a lot of music.

Nate Logsdon in Ames, 8/28

First was a house show in Ames on 8/28 with Nate Logsdon and some other very talented Ames musicians. The scene there is so energetic and supportive of local musicians. They welcomed Randy and me and listened patiently as we worked through our set with no amplification (I don’t know how to sing without a mic…it’s a thing). A fun night overall.

Thankful Dirt in Des Moines, 8/29

Next was Des Moines on 8/29 with Thankful Dirt. We played long-ass sets, but it gave me a chance to pull out and dust off some really old songs. We played at the Bombay Bicycle Club, which offered a great space but a less-than-great staff. The bartenders were rude and ended up cheating Thankful Dirt out of their guarantee. Apparently the owner has since reached out them and tried to rectify the situation–I hope he does. Even though the night ended on a negative note, I was happy to finally play with Thankful Dirt after years of sharing the same band members. ‘Twas long overdue.

Look, ma! My name’s on the ticket!

Then it was off to Iowa City to open for the one and only Leon Russell at the Englert Theatre. I was terrified before the show, but once Randy, Ryan, and I took the stage, everything felt right and we played a great set. The response was very positive. Though we obviously have a different kind of vibe than the crowd came to hear, so many people came up to us afterwards to let us know they loved the music. One audience member in particular surprised me by saying he was a member of the Underbeats, a band whose song, “Wishes Don’t Come True,” I covered on my first album. What?! After we finished our set, Leon & his band got the audience on their feet with sped-up versions of his songs and some popular covers. All in all, it was one of best shows I’ve ever played, in terms of sound, fun & merch sales (yesssss). I should also note that the Englert hospitality and sound folks are awesome–it’s such a pleasure to play at venue with such a cool and competent staff. Long live the Englert!

Members of the Bone Zone channel The Boss in Chicago, 9/1

On Saturday, 9/1, I headed to Chicago to play at the Tonic Room with Dead Coast (aka Brian Johannesen) and local singer-songwriter Lauren Hubert. Brian drove all the way up from Nashville and brought a whole lot of his Chicago-area family out to the show. My brother and his friends, who had all been to the Iowa game at Soldier Field earlier in the day, also came out, as did quite a few other friends from Iowa City. Randy played with both Brian and me, and then all three of us played a few together. It’s always a treat to play with those guys. If you live in Nashville, befriend Brian and make him play for you. You’ll be glad you did.

Iota in Arlington, VA, 9/3

After Chicago, I set out on my own without the boys to keep me company or make my songs sound better. After visiting a good friend in Cleveland on Sunday night, I arrived in Arlington, VA, on Monday, 9/3. Mercedes Mill started out the night, then me, then Crys Matthews. We each have our own brand of folk, and I think we made for an interesting, eclectic mix within the singer-songwriter genre. Some D.C.-area family and friends came out to the show, including some my Iowa City besties who randomly transplanted to D.C. at the same time. The folks at Iota had been very accommodating from the start, and continued to be the night of the show. The sound was great, they fed me, boozed me, and paid me. What more could I ask for?

I’ll be hanging out with friends and family in the D.C. area for the next few days, then I’m off to Pittsburgh for the weekend. I’ll be playing at Hambone’s Pub on Saturday, 9/8. More updates to follow.

Thanks to everyone who has come out to shows so far or expressed encouragement in other ways. Life on the road is treating me well so far…

Heading east through Ohio