Monday, July 2, 2012

BANDS IN VANS: Monkeying Around the Midwest

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 2:32 PM

The latest installation in our Bands in Vans series, local singer-songwriter Liz Rognes writes us from a tour through the Midwest — where she lived for years and got her start in music. She checks in from Minnesota.

Since I left Spokane almost two weeks ago, I’ve driven just over 2,000 miles by myself in a car stuffed with a guitar, a folk harp, a PA system that feels like it weighs a million tons (and that, consequently, has left me with a very literal pain in the back), a few mic stands, boxes full of my brand new album, and a haphazardly filled laundry basket full of clothes. I drove from Spokane to Okoboji, Iowa in three days, and in the middle of that drive, I played an impromptu house show in a hostel in the Black Hills for an unlikely audience which consisted of at least one church lady and a guy on some kind of practice ride for Sturgis. One never knows when a guitar will come in handy.

When I got to Iowa, I collapsed in a dazed heap on the floor of my parents’ place. Driving alone for three days in rising temperatures can really make a girl feel frazzled. My parents, however, welcomed me with sweet corn and veggie burgers, and within 48 hours, I was ready to head North to Minneapolis/St. Paul, where I’ve spent the past week rehearsing, recording, sweating, mailing long-delayed packets to my Kickstarter supporters, hanging around with old friends, and playing album release shows.

Not counting the church lady/Sturgis thing, I’ve played two official shows on this tour so far: one in a backyard with half grownups, half kids; and one in a bar with half modestly drunk people, half people in sobriety. One show featured 90 degree outdoor Midwestern heat (today there’s a heat index of 105), humidity, mosquitoes, and a rogue four-year old who kept sneaking up to my harp for a strum; the other show featured a drunk lady sitting nearly on the stage, telling me, “Mama liiiiike,” when I sang. But both shows, first and foremost, featured an audience of many supportive friends and family whom I love and a strong feeling of celebration about the release of this new album. There were people at these shows from many different parts of my past — I am so lucky to have the kind of support that I have!

I played the backyard show completely solo, which was fun because I haven’t played a solo show in a long time, and a lot of kids I used to teach and old friends were there. But the show on Saturday night was with my Minneapolis band: Dan Zamzow, Jake Staron, and Bethany DeLine. How lucky am I to get to have two bands? I have a band in Minneapolis, and a band in Spokane. I’m immensely lucky. These Minneapolis bandmates are some of my best friends in this city, and they are all multi-instrumentalists, so there was a lot of shuffling happening onstage as we swapped instruments, or as Bethany put on her tap shoes. Tap shoes? Yes, there was a tap dancer in my band on Saturday night! Here’s a video (by my friend Charlie McAnulty) of us performing, “What I Can’t Have,” at Acadia Café in Minneapolis, featuring Bethany DeLine’s tap dancing.

These release shows have also required the generous help of my sister. She lives in Mexico, but she’s in the Midwest right now, and she spent the weekend with me, helping me load gear, hanging out at band practice, helping me transport my tap dancer, and playing a highly undervalued role: post-show comic for the musician. She won’t be able to head West with me as I tour back to Spokane and on to Seattle and Portland in the next couple of weeks, and I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do without her help.

Anyway, my sister’s antics are what kept me seated at Pizza Luce in St. Paul, MN on Friday night after the backyard show for like two hours in the air conditioning, eating vegan pizza and laughing up tears. My friends and I watched my sister avoid the path of busy servers carrying hot pizza and pints of beer as she crawled on all fours across the floor of the restaurant at midnight. I think she was a little tipsy from boxed wine at the outdoor pre-release show, and she (obviously) was imitating an adult male gorilla. This might seem like bizarre behavior from an adult woman person, but this kind of triple digit heat index and humidity brings makes us all feel a little like monkey-ing around.

I’m taking a little break this week, over the 4th of July, to visit my parents in Iowa again (where, apparently it’s even hotter), and then I’ll be heading West. My next album release tour show is in Livingston, Montana, with The Old Tire Swingers, a bluegrass band I met in Denver a few weeks ago, when I tagged along on a tour with four guys in a rock and roll band (Spokane’s Buffalo Jones), but that’s another story.

Stay cool, Spokane. I miss you.

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April 12-18
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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...