October 27th, 2009 | by Local Cut Music | Posted In: Columns, Tour Diary, Tour Diary

Portland Cello Project: Band Vs. Tour

     
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ThaoWillisSanta Cruz

What a beautiful town (but anything is after L.A.). As contrast to the bigger venue the night before, we're now in a Crepe Place, called The Crepe Place. It's wonderful. The food is amazing—the people are the sweetest and yet most professional people.

Across the street Yo La Tengo is playing, too, but our show is just about sold out already, so we're not worried. Again in California style they say “put your merch on a table outside so there's more room inside.” Really? You Californians are so spoiled you don't even know it.

And then the weirdest of small-world things happens: I run into my neighbor from 10 years ago (whom I haven't seen since), to whom I once gave a cello lesson. She's apparently a big Thao fan.

That's perhaps the coolest thing about traveling like this, is running into random interesting people and reconnecting with people. We have an extra seat on our guest list so I put it out on Facebook and send a note to people in Santa Cruz on our mailing list asking if anyone wants it and it's gone in a few minutes.

The show was way sold out a few hours before doors. We decide to avoid sound issues and figure we'll roll without monitors at all (to reduce feedback in the crowded room). I thought this would force a certain amount of playing on faith since crowded rooms tend to be talky rooms, but the audience got completely quiet for us; except when they sang along with "Hey Ya," creating an even more beautiful chorus than either L.A. or Santa Cruz. I sense a theme for the tour developing. We'll have to play that at our Aladdin show in PDX Dec 4 and see if we can get the best chorus going of all…

And with this, the California leg for PCP is over…next stop for Cello Project is Seattle…

But I'm switching vans and roles… into the Viva Voce mobile (which Thao is renting), and off to play the mainstage at the Treasure Island Festival in San Francisco…).

Treasure Island, San Fran

We're here at like 10 am. The Decemberists and the Flaming Lips are loading in. It's cold, and there are squads of Pelicans flying around at low altitude surveying the happenings. Thao's got a great crew: Alicia, who is doing sound, and Clyde who is Tour Managing. Clyde and Thao decide that one of Clyde's tour manager responsibilities is to give us all secret missions that we have to take part in to earn points.

For example, Thao's mission is to have an intentionally awkward encounter with Wayne from the Flaming Lips.

For example, Willis' mission is to have Colin Meloy sign his chest with a quill pen.

We're all, of course, too shy to actually ever fulfill our missions.

Clyde, beyond being the TM, is a filmmaker—she made a bunch of Thao's videos, including the one we did with Thao for our last record, "Tallymarks." And Clyde is filming a piece for the tour called “Band vs Tour.” (Which is apparently like the TV show of a similar name I've never heard of.) Basically, Clyde films the ways the band overcomes the life-threatening obstacles that tour throws at the band, and keeps points on who is winning: the Band, or the Tour.

With all of this points talk, I'm realizing Thao's band is quite competitive.

I got to play Red Rocks in Denver with Thao a couple months ago (it was my first show with them— quite the initiation!) This is looking to be similarly epic, though with better weather.

We're on at 1 pm, but the place is already a sea of people. This is Thao's town—people are singing along in this big crowd and yelling that they love her.

“You're my hero!” someone yells.

“Whoa!” she responds. “I don't know if I'm up for that responsibility.”

But I think that responsibility will grow more and more as people hear her new record. The Cello Project is definitely honored to be along for the ride on this one.

Links:
Portland Cello ProjectSpace
ThaoSpace

Photos courtesy of Douglas Jenkins
 
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