Road Blog: Saturday June 19, 2021 - Iowa City, IA
June 19, 2021
Iowa City, IA
I left The Dungeon at 9:30am, happily turning the key over to Edward, who seemed concerned that everything wasn’t as peachy as it possibly could have been. I assured him it was and that I’d stay there again. The truth is that for the price and location it’s a hell of a deal. A new shower curtain, a sponging of the walls, and a TV would make it downright tolerable. Maybe have the Wi-Fi code printed out somewhere so Edward doesn’t have to meander into the apartment with a photo of the label from his router on his phone so you can see the connection info. Details, folks. I hit I88- West through Aurora and remembered the time that Gabriel, Patrick Patty and I arrived at our our AirB&B on a horse farm out there at 3am after a late show in the city and our nice, lonely, elderly host lady pulled a giant homemade lasagna out of the oven and a fresh garden salad out of the fridge, as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do. We feasted like kings that night, and it was very odd. Anyhow, that comes to mind every time I’m in that area.
I crossed the Mississippi into Iowa around noon, passed the Iowa-80 World's Largest Truck Stop in Walcott, then hit my AirBnB at about 12:30. My host, Horatio, seemed friendly enough but was quite certain the room wouldn’t be ready before 4pm. Somehow a miracle happened and he got it done and there I was, setting up camp in a nice carpeted basement with a window to let in some sun and a some AppleTV so I could at least watch live news and Montreal Canadiens overtime win highlights. I chilled for a couple hours, watched some news loops, ate some jerky, maybe dozed off for a bit. By 3pm I was bored and it was time to head into the city.
The thermometer in the car said 104, but it was back to a respectable 96 by the time I stopped at the Kum & Go for ice. I parked in the shade, downloaded my third parking app for the trip, and went to The Record Collector– a regular stop when in IC. I nearly pulled the trigger on a new Numero Records Female duo compilation but just wasn’t feeling it. I did a lap around town and ended up back at the venue where I met Brett - “Mr. Elray” – the guy running the joint, who let me get my guitars out of the hot car. He gave me the tour and was very friendly. With another 90 minutes to kill I wandered around the city some more, got a beer at Donnelly's Pub IC, and got a rather large order of dumplings from Dumpling Darling Iowa City– a fantastic take-out place next to the venue. I opted to eat in the A/C of the car over the sweltering sidewalk tables.
Elrays Live&Dive used to be the Blue Moose. Patty and Gabe and I had a couple beers there once when we had some downtime in Iowa City. It’s been gutted and re-imagined, with the stage against the front window, a big band room in back, a techno room upstairs and a rooftop bar. The setup is very Nashville-Broadway Street now in that way, and it certainly has that feel. It’s much more about the slot you’re assigned to start and stop than a traditional “show” where there’s a support slot and a headliner and a single stage, billed as an event. There’s not really much camaraderie between the bands, some lack of etiquette (“I’ll just put my electric guitar case and mic-stand with an iPad mounted on it right where the solo-acoustic guy is gonna stand for 2 hours before we have to set up…”) but that’s the way these things go sometimes and a friendly “hey, could you please…” and no problems. People were all friendly and cool, just very separate agendas. The sound was fantastic, thanks to a state-of-the-art system and the very-capable but young engineer James, who hasn’t been at it long enough to take on the normal, apathetic, grizzled, grumpy, salty persona of someone who’s done sound for every crappy band east of the Rockies for the last 30 years.
I went on at 7pm sharp to a thin group of people (and that’s being generous) but people started filling in as I got under way. There was some come-and-go, watch a couple tunes, check out the disco or patio. At 8pm the band started in the back and I was working to play above the bleed-through, but it wasn’t too bad - I’ve been through that before as well. I wrapped up at 9, had a nice visit with Mr. Elray, and hit the Kum And Go near my AirBnB for some ice (in a cup) and a Rice Krispy treat. Back at the room I took a shower, called TrooperGirl22 and told her I was bringing home not only a new Martin, but some leftover dumplings, and crashed out pretty early, mostly exhausted from the heat and a two-hour set.
I rolled over at 5:30am and saw that the sky was just starting to turn from dark to light. I can occasionally hear birds chirping over the ringing in my ears, and they seemed eager to start their day, so I thought I should too. By 10 to six I was on the road. Couldn’t even get a coffee that early. It was a light rain and thick fog until I hit Chicago, where I stopped at the Chicago Southland Lincoln Oasis to get rid of the coffee I’d drank and get another, and text TG22 with my ETA. I tried calling my dad John Porter to say Happy Father’s Day and check in, and hit the road again, with just 1 more break before home.
TrooperGirl was ecstatic about the dumplings and tolerant of the Martin, and she seemed excited about the Bee Gees Greatest Hits LP I got her, but it was the “surprise” four-foot-tall poster of her husband with the “Elray’s” logo next to the $4 White Claw logo that really got her worked up. Oddly, it’s not yet hanging in the living room.
It felt great to be back out there, playing shows, meeting people, and doing the thing I love doing most. I can’t wait `till things pick up just a little more and I can do it with the boys in the van and some amps and drums. Thanks to everyone who was a part of this run and to you for reading. `Till next time! xx