Ever seen a Saguaro cactus?
Foghorn Stringband has just returned from a tour of the great states of Arizona and New Mexico. We have been calling it our tourist tour as we actually had time to explore some amazing places along the way instead of how it often is with just enough time to drive to the next gig. Our tour began in Tombstone, AZ Friday the 7th at the Tombstone Livery, a ranch known for its wild west Leadville shooting contests. We played there for a warm crowd of locals, some of whom even dressed in period clothing for the evening’s concert! Saturday we headed for Silver City, NM and the Pickamania Festival held in the city park. It turned out to be a wonderful community festival and we had a lot of folks up dancing in front of the stage. Jeanne and Ken, of Bayo Seco hosted a great party attended by locals and musicians from the festival. Easily the most impressive guest at the party was 89-year old Antonia Apodaca, a tiny Mexican-American accordian player with more energy and zest for life than most folks young or old. What a firecracker! She claimed her doctors were red & green chilis, and her nurses were tortillas and pinto beans. Whatever you say Antonia! It seems to be working!
Sunday we headed for Bisbee, AZ, a strange and beautiful little mining town set in a narrow valley. The copper mines have been closed since the 70’s. All that is left are some mine shafts here and there, and an enormous tailings pile next to a dizzyingly deep pit mine downstream of the town. We played at a brand new venue called the Bisbee Royale. Any worries about it being a new venue were quickly dispelled. They treated us well, and had an excellent sound guy who even played the likes of the Carter Family and Hank Williams between sets instead of some vibe-killing death metal or something. The show was well attended by an enthusiastic local crowd that warmed us right into a frenzy of fiddle tunes and songs.
Monday we had no gig, so we made the most of it by getting up early and starting the day off tracing the route of the Bisbee 1000! The Bisbee 1000 is a race that occurs each year, equivalent to the fun runs of other towns, only this one routes up and down some of the many staircases of the town that scale hills no street could, bringing residents to their homes. Bisbee residents must have highly oxygenated blood and brains thanks to all that stair climbing! We poked around the antique stores, were treated well at Santiagos, a delicious restaurant of Mexican fare owned by one of last night’s concert attendees. Some of us took a tour of the Queen Mine, going deep into the mountainside. And late in the day we drove to Sierra Vista, hosted for the evening by kind folks John and Marcia, and their strange circling Pomeranian, Charlie who compulsively went clockwise, whether standing in place or while walking across the room.
Tuesday John and Marcia took us for a gorgeous hike at Coronado National Park. From the mountaintop we looked straight down in to Mexico, and upon the border with Mexico, a fence in one direction as far as the horizon, and a road in the other. Border patrol trucks drove by about every ten mintues, back and forth on the road. Tax dollars at work I guess. We headed for Tucson and a house concert at Jacquie Wohl’s place. It was a small but cozy evening concert. Wednesday we hit up the Desert Museum, (thanks Jerry and Jacquie for the guest passes), a fascinating place full of plants and animals of the desert. And all of it surrounded by forests of giant saguaro cactus. We landed in Phoenix that afternoon at Carolyn Camp’s lovely home just in time to settle in and teach an evening of workshops. Thursday we spent a good part of the day filling our heads with all the sights and sounds of the Musical Instrument Museum. That place is fascinating! You walk around displays of instruments from all different regions of the world and genres of music. As you approach each display, the relevant music fills your ears at the same time you are watching a video of the instruments being played! Wow. In our humble opinion, they need to do a bit of work on the old time stringband, bluegrass, Cajun, country, Canadian, & Irish exhibits. They were pretty bare bones and had the nerve to include Bela Fleck in the bluegrass display, and not Bill Monroe! What gives? In all the world, it truly seemed like the Africans were having the most fun, hands down. After an amazing dinner at the Parlor, Carolyn hosted a house concert back at her place.
Friday and Saturday we found ourselves in the piney hills of Flagstaff, AZ, at the Pickin’ in the Pines festival. Now, I wouldn’t say we would ever expect to be treated like royalty, but when it happens, heck, it sure is nice! The Pickin’ in the Pines folks have it nailed when it comes to treating the performers with kindness and generosity. Seemed like every time I turned around, someone was offering me something to drink or eat, a chair, or asking me if I needed anything. And it was hands-down the best festival food ever; featuring fresh tossed organic salads, and salmon grilled on site. The concert sets were wonderfully received by an attentive, enthusiastic audience. And we played two great dances as well. It was an excellent way to end our tour. Sunday we left the festival and flew back to the NW and had a “Moon Landing”, playing til nearly 2am at the Moon and Sixpence.
Since our return we have played shows in Bellingham, Seattle, and Portland to party down in honor of our new album Outshine the Sun. We’ve been selling it all summer, so I guess we can’t really call it a cd release, but we’ve been so busy, we haven’t had a chance to properly celebrate yet! It was great fun to play for our home crowds. Our friend Caroline Oakley called a rowdy dance at the Portland show. In October we’ll be traveling to Edmonton Alberta to teach, and at the end of October you’ll find us in Lafayette, Louisiana at the Black Pot music festival eating, dancing, listening to some great Cajun music, and playing tunes!