I don’t know if anyone else remembers this old Denis Leary bit about coffee flavored coffee… (I won’t embed the thing, but if you’re interested, click-a right-a here-a). A disclaimer – it is straight from the year 1997. When “www dot ____ ” jokes were cutting edge.
I only bring it up because since 1997, we have gotten fancier. Not that I have to worry about maplenut crunch, or hazelbean sunrise, or flavors like that… at least not at the espresso slinging joints I find myself in. I bring it up today because – like everything that starts out as a love / passion / joy… when pursued and studied and analyzed at such serious and imperial lengths… things get lost. I’m talking about espresso, of course.
Our touring route routinely brings us up I-5. This – happily – takes us through the heart of GreatCoffeeVille USA. Arcata, Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Bellingham – good coffee. I love espresso. I will walk blocks and blocks to find the espresso shack if options close and closer are only sporting the drip. The beef I am about to raise has to do with espresso and only espresso. Not drip. Drip away all ye mighty drippers! Do your thing! More drippy power to you! In a hotel lobby at the crack of noon, I may even join you at your watery and drippy quaffing. But – when I have my druthers – it will be espresso. Why espresso? Because I like thick, dark, roasty-roasted, rich, full-throated, volumptuous espresso, that’s why.
Enter the beef.
Recently – not only up and down our I-5 trek, but also, I’m sad to say, here at home – yay, verily, even in my little P-cow-town, our espresso is being made…. less espresso-y. The philosophy, as I understand it (as I’ve had many a barista explain as they look down their noses at me), is this: When you roast a bean (similar to roasting anything, I suppose) – you roast out the actual flavor inherent in the bean (or potato, or chicken, or bell-pepper – you get the idea.) If you roast it for a short while, you will have maximum flavor. If you over roast it – if you roast it until the beans are extremely dark (Italian roast, it used to be called, I believe) – it is akin (so the philosophy goes) to burning a delicate dish of roasted snapper, or fava beans. Gone is the flavor, gone is the delicate art of the roaster, gone is the bouquet, the high notes, the tannins and the hints of blackberry… And so the espresso that one finds at many a (you hoped) very-delicious-and-hip-and-with-it-coffee-shop is – sadly – not the espresso this bassist is looking for.
When I order espresso, I am looking for the dynamic and complex flavors of espresso: curvy, sensual, gorgeous, velvety coffee-ness. High notes, fruits, nuts, herbs, all that is well and good for the drip and the french press and the teas… but please oh please, coffee world, not for espresso! These hightened flavors that one boasts of are gone if you don’t drink the coffee drink in one swift shot. By sip number two, the bottom has fallen out of the flavor, and you’re left with an extremely bitter, foundationless, non-robust cup of very complexly flavored non-espresso.
I wanted to take this little soap box moment to thank Lighthouse Roasters of Seattle. They get it. They have all kinds of coffee there – they are serious coffee folk! They know about flavors and roasting times. They know about complexity and seriousness of coffee afficionados. And yet – and yet they roast their espresso with a full pair of cojones. There is a foundation deep and pure and sonorous as Nina Simone in their espresso. They didn’t hand out a light-roasted, maximum flavored, hoity-toity cup of bitter disappointment. Nay. They offered this bass player the best cup of coffee he has had on tour to date.
Thanks Lighthouse Roasters. Please send your roasting team out to the roasteries and espresso bars of the world to spread your good news! To share your secret lore! To embrace the world in a warm, dark, cozy womb of flavor and substance that is – in some places – in danger of disappearing all together!
We’re all reeling from the amazing and glorious night tonight at The Chapel. Thanks to all of you beautiful people that came out and got down with us. Good Lord. We’ve never seen San Francisco dance, and clap, and stomp and party with us like you all did tonight. One for the record books.
We played the last show of the tour last night in Bellingham, and it was glorious. We got to live our rock and roll dreams with Deren Ney and Mike Curry from the Gramblers – they jumped up for Swamp Jam, and I just about exploded: too long without electric instruments and rocking drums can be hard on this fellow. It felt gooooood to rock loud.
Now I’m on an Airporter headed back to Petaluma where I will (hopefully) be just in time to lead my wonderful and beloved High School Jazz Band students in an afternoon performance. Andy Lentz (fiddle on the tour) is flying back to Austin (via Portland) and the 3 musketeers – the 3 amigos – the 3 blind mice – the triplets of Vanville – Ben, Alex and Ryan – will be driving our sweet ‘lil van allllllll the way back. Today. Happy driving, boys.
It’s always hard on the psyche and the system to whiplash between touring and being back home. The realities – particularly for this father and up-at-6am-highschool-teacher are pretty vastly different. It sure does make a soul cherish his family, though. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so our hearts are growing fonder – in an extreme way – about once a month these days. But absence also makes a body feel lonesome, and that’s in full effect too – especially for a 2 year-old little girl who hasn’t quite grasped the concepts of time and space yet. “I’ll be home soon” becomes a big heap of “I’m not there” when you say it to a 2 year old.
But tonight clan Benedetti will be back to livingroom dance parties (currently spinning The Muppets movie soundtrack) and home cooked meals, and cozy beds. Whiplash won’t really set in until tomorrow morning at 6:03. When the alarm goes off for work.
I should probably shave too.
Nice to be home, y’all. See yous soon.
Hello there folks.
Just wanted to let you know that we’re in Canada right now.
It’s wonderful. We had our International Touring Band merit badges sewn on by the Grand Marshall of the International Association of Van Drivers. It was quite a ceremony. Our parents wept with pride. Tonight we play the Media Club with Nicki Bluhm and her infamous Grambling Gramblers, and we finish our leg of the tour with them tomorrow in Bellingham.
Good times, people. Hope to see you out here.
Hi ho folks!
It’s been a good long while since I’ve been at the ‘ol Blogging Post – but tonight’s events warranted – nay – demanded a faithful bloggy report.
So – to begin, a bit of back story. I’ve been trying oh-so-hard to eat healthy. When this tour rolled around, I headed myself down to Trader Joe’s and bought a bunch of oatmeal, apples, oranges and trail mix for the journey.
I wake up in Arcata at Jared’s Palace of Comics and Donuts, (after an absolutely kick-ass show at Humbrews) and there is a glorious pot of coffee and a box of donuts waiting for us wayward band folk. But I resist. I go to the van, get my oatmeal, and make up my breakfast in a bowl. Mmmm. healthy. I have a few cups of coffee, some water, and we take to the van. Destination: Eugene.
We drive drive drive – there’s a lunch stop at a Safeway in Crescent City. I save a few bucks, have an apple, have an orange, munch some trail mix, drink my water, and I’m good to go.
We drive drive drive some more, and we get to Eugene. I have another cup of coffee, some more water, and order the lentil soup and beet salad for dinner. I eat it.
Then we play some music.
Eugene (emphasis: EUgene) is sweet to us, and we have ourselves a good time… except for Gio who is experiencing some serious abdominal pain on stage. Cramping like I’ve only heard about. It continues all through the set, makes singing a bit rough, and is becoming worrisome. When we finish, I try and skedaddle to the van as quick as can be to just wait out this ever-growing pain in my belly!
I get to the van, and just kind of moan and roll around for about 25 minutes. It just keeps getting worse. I’m looking up “abdominal pain” on my phone, trying the left side, the right side… it all hurts. Then I start to get all tingly down my arms, sweaty, light headed… Then I’m having weird dreams, I come to, and it takes me a while to figure out where the hell I am. My stomach hurts!
I call in the rest of the band, and I have them take me to the hospital. I’m pretty worried at this point. I can’t really move, everything hurts, and I’m worried I’m going to black out again. The noble Brothers Comatose wing me to the ER. I shakily fill out paperwork, recite birthdays, etc… and then I wait for them to see me.
By the time I’m actually in the ER room, with the little ER gown on… I feel pretty good. My stomach doesn’t hurt anymore. At all, really. Not even when the doctor starts pushing around on it. Thank God, say I… and yet… Feels pretty silly to just sit in a ER when you feel fine, right?
The doctor tells me that I probably just had indigestion, or some gas pains, and that I passed out as a reaction / instinct to the pain.
So, here we are, safe and sound in the hotel room… but one ER visit later. And while I’m stoked that I feel better, and stoked to have a diagnosis of “all clear,” it is still a bit unsettling to not have anything solid to point to for an evening of the most uncomfortable singing / playing / passing out in a van that I’ve ever experienced.
So, here we go – onward and forward. I’ll be eating more rice and gruel, more water less coffee, and praying for easy nights from here on out.
Thanks to the Gramblers and the sweet fans of Eugene for the concern, the support and the well wishes! Seems that all is right and good here. Back to the road and the shows!
Beer Supply – low. Must restock.
Jamz Supply – high. Thank you digital world.
Van – check.
Instruments – check.
Tour with Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers Part II: Beers in Canada – check.
Empty tupperware for maple syrup importation – check.
Hockey Equipment – check.
I think we’re ready.
See you lovely folks out there on the road.